Three leading healthcare organizations say a coordinated effort is needed to ensure the safety of surgical professionals and patients during the recent COVID-19 surge. The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), American College of Surgeons (ACS) and American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) this week sent a joint letter to federal government leaders, imploring them to act swiftly and collectively while organizing the nation's response to the pandemic's latest peak.
The organizations asked the federal government to focus its efforts on protecting healthcare workers' well-being, ensuring adequate supplies of medications and other vital supplies reach the frontlines of care, and improving communication about the status and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. The letter says healthcare facilities and staff continue to struggle with the burden of caring for patients in the midst of the pandemic, and conditions could worsen as the virus spikes throughout the country and hospitals beds begin to fill up again.
"Our nation's healthcare workforce is fatigued and stressed beyond capacity right now, placing both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients at grave risk for human error and substandard care," states the letter, which is signed by AORN CEO/Executive Director Linda Groah, MSN, RN, CNOR, NEA-BC, FAAN; ACS Executive Director David Hoyt, MD, FACS; and ASA President Beverly K. Philip, MD, FACA, FASA. The letter was sent to Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, President-Elect Joe Biden and other top officials.
The organizations want the federal government to coordinate how the supply chain deploys medications, PPE and other essential surgical gear to ORs nationwide, adding, "Federal leadership is also instrumental to local, state and regional cooperation to monitor ICU overloads and manage resources for optimal care of all patients in a region, so facilities no longer have to resort to crisis standards of care."
AORN has also teamed with the ACS, ASA and American Hospital Association (AHA) to update their "Roadmap for Maintaining Essential Surgery During the COVID-19 Pandemic." Leaders of the groups believe implementing the suggestions in the roadmap — which provides guidance to surgical leaders about managing supply chains management, PPE, in-facility COVID testing and other pandemic-related issues — will give surgical staffs the resources they need to continue performing surgery safely during the pandemic.
"Healthcare professionals must have up-to-date resources to support their decision-making in patient and provider safety," says Ms. Groah. "Essential surgeries will continue, and this updated guidance will enable the safest possible conditions for everyone. With this update, we have emphasized healthcare worker well-being and staffing issues, federally coordinated deployment of supplies, medications and vital equipment, and increased communication and vaccine distribution plan transparency."Adam Taylor