Some places are coming out of the first wave of the COVID pandemic, while others are starting to see it peak. There will be long-term leadership lessons for everyone as we look back at this time:
“In February, we were watching COVID unfold, but we did not take it that seriously here. We acquired some extra PPE, purchased a vehicle decon system, and reviewed our infectious disease policy. It was much too little, too late.
By this point, at the PPE was already gone and back-orders were piling up. Our decon system got redirected and we were not able to obtain a replacement. Our infectious disease policy was great on paper, but it was not real guidance to our staff, especially with the scarcity of actual PPE.
We learned a few lessons:
1) A policy is a piece of paper – it’s not a plan until you practice it in the real world
2) Base your decisions on real-time information, and act as early as you can in preparing and purchasing
3) You need to blow the dust off your PPE, and practice donning and doffing, more often than every few years.
4) Complacency causes high-risk”
Just because a law or regulation does not mandate it does not mean that we should not be doing it. Even when regulations require it, we often find the cheapest and easiest way to comply with the regulation, and too often we reap what we sow.
Mark Bober, Director of EMS at HMH JFK Medical Center, leads one of the organizations that have been through the first wave. He has some observations on preparedness for the next wave, and the next major event. “I think this is a common feeling right now among EMS leaders, but also a healthy one. Since 9/11, we have all slowly watched grants and funding related to emergency preparedness dry up year after year. Our stockpiles have slowly dwindled, our educational preparedness programs have been offered less frequently, and our reserves have been “leaned” out over time. Major events like this pandemic are seemingly the only way these avenues for resources are refreshed and replenished, but as this article states, it is almost always too little too late.”
Mark continues, “As the stewards of our profession, our organizations, and the safety of our people, we need to weave this lesson deep into the fabric of who we are and how we operate. It cannot be enough to only pursue these endeavors when resources are plentiful and opportunities are spoon fed to us. I am the first to admit that justifying spending for something that might be needed is a difficult argument to make, especially if it involves postponing the purchase of something that is definitely needed. But this is the difficult space in which we all need to get comfortable. With no clear picture of what the future holds or if we will find ourselves in this position again soon, tough decisions are going to be the only norm we can rely on.”
“Now is the time to identify par levels and procure an effective internal stockpile for PPE and other hard-to-obtain pandemic supplies. Now is the time to create regular emergency preparedness training schedules. And now is the time to plug in to support services and resiliency programs for front line providers. If we ignore history, we will certainly repeat it. And history is doing its best right now to help us reorganize our priorities.”