Treating contagious diseases, including COVID-19, is not new to hospitals. The guidelines for protecting patients, staff and visitors are based on decades of scientific research. You may hear that COVID-19 patients are treated in “isolation.” Isolation is a set of precautions taken to prevent the spread of infectious germs between patients, staff, and visitors throughout the hospital.
Infection control for patients in isolation
Many patients are treated using various isolation practices, for everything from pink eye, the flu, to COVID-19. Isolation practices are based on how the germ physically spreads.
- If the disease is spread by touch, staff and visitors will follow guidelines to preventing spread through contact with the patient or the patient’s care environment. This includes wearing single use gloves and a single use gown in the patient’s room.
- If the disease is spread by droplets of mucus or saliva from coughing or sneezing, staff and visitors would wear a mask when near the patient. The patient wears a mask when out in a hallway or other public area.
- If the disease is spread by smaller airborne particles that can float in the air for a period of time, staff members will place patients in special rooms with negative air pressure whenever possible to keep germs out of hallways. Staff will wear special respiratory protection in the room with the patient, visitors would wear masks. The patient wears a mask when out in a hallway or other public area.
- For some types of highly infectious disease like COVID-19 and Ebola, visitors may not be able to safely go into the patient’s isolation room. When this happens, facetime and zoom visits are set up instead.
Infection control for all patients
- Handwashing: Handwashing is the most important part of preventing infection. All staff wash their hands or use a hand sanitizing solution before and after touching every patient. Hands are also cleaned after touching or cleaning items in any patient room, even if gloves are worn.
- Patient placement and transport: Patients in isolation are typically assigned to private rooms, and additional safety precautions are taken any time they are transported between departments or rooms.
- Personal protective equipment: Staff members and visitors entering isolation rooms wear personal protective equipment (PPE). The required PPE varies based on how the specific disease is spread, and in the case of COVID-19, typically includes a mask, gown, and eye protection.
- Nutrition, environmental services and more: Staff members who deliver food or provide cleaning services follow strict guidelines and limit unnecessary entry to isolation rooms. These practices ensure patients still receive excellent care and service while limiting additional exposure and conserving PPE use.
Universal Masking at UPHS – Marquette
All patients, staff, and visitors at the hospital or at outpatient clinics need to wear a mask during this COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring everyone wears a mask lowers the risk of infection, because not all people with COVID-19 will show symptoms of illness. Staff taking care of patients will also be wearing eye protection in the form of goggles or a face shield for extra protection from cough and sneeze droplets.
How UPHS – Marquette is treating COVID-19 patients
Out of an abundance of caution, we are taking a number of additional precautions in the treatment of patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19:
- Our team is trained on how to safely put on and take off respiratory protection, gowns, and gloves.
- We have specialized medical equipment on hand to keep our staff and patients safe.
- We have a specific unit to care for COVID-19 patients in the hospital with negative pressure rooms and specially-trained staff.
- Staff working with possible COVID-19 patients are given scrubs to wear and access to showers after their shift before going home.
- All employees and patients are asked about any COVID-19 symptoms and are checked for fever as they enter the building.
- All patients making clinic appointments are screened for COVID-19 symptoms over the phone.
- Procedures that are not emergencies have been rescheduled and will resume when it is safe to do so.
These protective measures for managing infectious diseases ensure that our hospital is always safe for you and your loved ones when you need care.