Pandemic modelling for COVID-19 has governments and communities working towards a common goal of ‘flattening the curve’ in order to give healthcare services the best opportunity to meet the coming acute demand of COVID-19 infected patients. Whilst the usual medical, mental health and trauma presentations may reduce, they will continue. This requires workforce planning that includes consideration of long-term sustainability, as well as a significant and unprecedented period of surge.
Emergency Departments (EDs), already operating over capacity, have the potential to be overwhelmed by both sheer numbers of mild to moderately unwell patients, as well as resourceintense critical patients (who may or may not benefit from critical interventions) and staff shortages due to quarantine requirements when exposed to COVID-19 infected patients.
This Guideline is a framework for all in EDs to work from as we plan and respond to the pandemic. With our states, countries, metropolitan, rural and regional emergency care facilities all at different stages of community impact, and with markedly different workforce, infrastructure and resources available, local implementation of these guidelines will differ.
However, there are general principles of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 emergency care that will apply to all workplaces:
- There is no patient emergency more important than the safety of our healthcare workforce.
- Appropriate, judicious use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is paramount.
- Planning for the increased numbers of patients requiring critical care services is important.
- Special consideration should be given to vulnerable people, both patients and staff, such as those who are older or have comorbidities as well as Indigenous populations.
In this COVID-19 healthcare response, we must use the challenges of delivering equitable, safe, timely, rational, effective, patient-centred healthcare, to create opportunities in healthcare community building, communication and system reform. Our goal is to create a ‘living’ document for the generic planning and implementation that is occurring in duplication across multiple sites concurrently. To enable continual refinement of the document we hope you will share your feedback, resources, challenges, wins and local solutions here - ACEM COVID-19 Suggestions.
The next six months are going to be tough, but our skills, expertise, humanity, compassion, training, unity and strength will get us through it. Amid all of this, maintaining our wellbeing, both physical and psychological, remains more important than ever.
Please continue to look after yourselves and each other, our precious emergency healthcare resource.