MVP hospital group’s learnings from COVID-19
After Cardinal Santos Hospital declared their first COVID-19 positive patient in March 6 and MMC two days after, the latter was quick to decide to suspend all mass gatherings in their hospitals including Eucharistic celebrations way ahead of the advice of the Archdiocese, and all other measures such as reducing some departments to their skeletal workforce, and closing doors of their doctors’ outpatient clinics.
“From the first patients of Cardinal and MMC, this immediately set into motion many of our pandemic response protocols which we last used many years back when we had SARS and MERSCOV,” recalls Dr. Javier, as he went on to share the hospitals’ initial actions to combat an emerging crisis for the healthcare sector.
In mitigating the impact of a pandemic, nothing is ever too much, too fast, or too soon. What others might think as an overkill reaction or an exaggerated response from its first COVID-19 case was only apt for the surge of cases the following days which eventually forced MMC to declare full capacity just two weeks after its initial response.“We reinforced and implemented strict prevention control protocols. We expanded bed capacities. We came out with infrastructure revisions and adjustments. We sought accreditation for a laboratory for COVID-19 testing. We enhanced our communication platforms, adapted teleconferencing, and telemedicine. We pursued collaborations but most of all we protected our healthcare workers. We also included stockpiling of materials, procurement, security precautions, and recruitment.”
With the extent of loss and fatigue that the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt the nation, the crisis really took its toll on the conditions of the hospitals and the welfare of the healthcare system. The rising statistics of new cases and death counts from the new waves of testing revealed the real status of the country against the virus.
Communication in times of crisis is most essential. It’s a crucial aspect in managing the pandemic as misinformation can easily spread with just a swipe of the screen or the flick of a finger making it imperative for the group to address any misinformation or disinformation going their way.
“It is worthwhile to remember that this COVID-19 pandemic is the first of its kind in the age of social media,” said Dr. Javier. “We had to come up with regular advisories and bulletins. Our messaging frameworks consisted of facts and truths. We presented the community with numbers in terms of recoveries, deaths, and admissions. We even offered salutes to healthcare workers not only from our own but even in other healthcare institutions.”
Dr. Javier recounts that despite the bad news overwhelming the country, triumphs, and wins against COVID-19, no matter how small, needed to be celebrated.
“We presented ugly news, we also presented bad news, but we punctuated this with good news capitalizing on these small pieces of information to drive home positive energies to our constituents.”
He mentions that the hospital celebrated the recoveries of their critically ill physicians, the hospital’s low fatality rate and their good patient recovery rate, the donations and support of generous souls, the support of the MVP group, and the individual and collective support of everyone in the medical community.
“We capitalized on every shred of hope and optimism that we could have. When needed, we also confronted false assumptions and fake news,” recalls Dr. Javier when the MMC was bombarded in social media. “We tried to communicate clearly and simply. We chose candor over charisma. We tried to revitalize resilience. And we tried to distill sense and meaning from chaos. Our messaging framework consisted of facts and truths, and we tried to present these with clarity, honesty, and transparency. We infused these with reassurance, empowered vigilance, positivity, and sense of control and purpose.”
Dr. Javier emphasized that the safety and lives of personnel and staff take precedence over revenues. An important aspect of managing the pandemic was supporting and taking care of their healthcare workers, making sure that transportation and accommodation were provided. Even for employees who had to be optionally admitted, despite the limited capacity, they made sure that they were taken cared for by their own hospital. They also provided for hazard allowances and risk exposure allowances, and psycho-social counseling helping them deal with the stress confronting their healthcare workers.
“We kept in mind that we did not want to transfer anyone to any other outside facility. We wanted to take care of our own,” he added.
They also put in place effective systems and various measures of managing COVID-19-related spaces to secure other functions of the hospitals from exposure to the virus such multiple layers of screening and questionnaires, enhanced decontamination and disinfection protocols, dedicated elevators, wards, and marked pathways. “The overarching considerations is that fear, among both patients and the healthcare professionals, are lessened by the institution of safety protocols for all.”
Despite the crisis, the group was able to come up with new services such as diagnostic packages, utilize their PCR capabilities for COVID-19 testing, and allowing MMC to join clinical trials with pharmaceutical companies. It was also able to explore and offer new services like Telepharmacy and Telepsychiatry, home care services such as laboratory testing, physical medicine, and rehabilitation.
“The opportunities for bouncing back have to be fully recognized and we have to sell the new normal to the patient clientele. On top of this, we have to manage fear and psycho-social stress. But in MMC, we still can count our blessings – the low-case fatality rate, the high clinical recovery rate, no casualty among doctors who are directly facing COVID-19 patients, and the majority of healthcare workers who acquired COVID-19 are either mild or asymptomatic. The supplies of PPE and ventilators remain adequate and our nursing care services continue to provide excellent quality service despite setbacks because of a dwindling workforce,” shared Dr. Javier.
In conclusion, despite the measures and protocols, Dr. Javier pointed out that the effects of this pandemic will live on in the ‘new normal’ and we must learn to live and co-exist with the virus, never letting our guards down.