May 21, 2020
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used every day by healthcare personnel (HCP) to protect themselves, patients, and others when providing care. PPE helps protect HCP from potentially infectious patients and materials, toxic medications, and other potentially dangerous substances used in healthcare delivery. PPE shortages are currently posing a tremendous challenge to the U.S. healthcare system because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare facilities are having difficulty accessing the needed PPE and are having to identify alternate ways to provide patient care.
Surge capacity refers to the ability to manage a sudden, unexpected increase in patient volume that would otherwise severely challenge or exceed the present capacity of a facility. While there are no commonly accepted measurements or triggers to distinguish surge capacity from daily patient care capacity, surge capacity is a useful framework to approach a decreased supply of PPE during the COVID-19 response. Three general strata have been used to describe surge capacity and can be used to prioritize measures to conserve PPE supplies along the continuum of care.
CDC’s optimization strategies for PPE offer a continuum of options for use when PPE supplies are stressed, running low, or absent. Contingency and then crisis capacity measures augment conventional capacity measures and are meant to be considered and implemented sequentially. As PPE availability returns to normal, healthcare facilities should promptly resume standard practices. HCP and facilities—along with their healthcare coalitions, local and state health departments, and local and state partners—should work together to develop strategies that identify and extend PPE supplies, so that recommended PPE will be available when needed most. When using PPE optimization strategies, training on PPE use, including proper donning and doffing procedures, must be provided to HCP before they carry out patient care activities.
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