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Cases of 2 infected Md. health care providers reinforce need for social distancing

The Northwest Hospital program is based on a model called an accountable care unit that emphasizes collaboration to improve safety results. An interdisciplinary group of Northwest leadership and frontline team members worked together to use the ACU model as a tool to design an innovative blueprint at the hospital that focuses on patient and family-centered care, outcomes and employee engagement. (File photo)

Northwest Hospital (File photo)

Cases of two Maryland health care providers contracting COVID-19 have underscored the need for hospital staff to take precautions both in the hospital and while at home.

The Maryland providers contracting the disease, caused by the novel coronavirus, have been made public, including the announcement Wednesday that a health care provider at Northwest Hospital has the disease.

“This provider has informed their staff, and we have identified individuals who may have come into contact with this provider, including patients and employees,” LifeBridge Health, which includes Northwest, said in a statement. “Our teams are communicating directly with those persons, including what steps they may need to take. We are following our internal protocols, including state and federal guidelines, to determine the next appropriate steps.

Johns Hopkins Hospital previously said it had a provider contract the disease.

Maintaining social distance and wearing protective equipment is important for protecting providers, Bob Atlas, president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association, said Wednesday, before LifeBridge announced the provider’s case.

“Step one is to keep people who are actively sick at home, if they are starting at home and feel symptoms, they should stay home and either call their provider,” to receive guidance on whether to go to the hospital, he said. (Providers) “are required to wear full personal protective equipment.”

But that has had its limits as supplies of equipment have run low.

“It’s not like everywhere has run out, but there are places that are getting close,” Atlas said.

He was heartened that President Donald Trump had invoked the Defense Production Act, which should direct more manufacturers in the country to produce needed equipment likes masks and gowns. It could also allow them to begin producing ventilators, needed to treat people who develop respiratory symptoms from the disease.

Atlas also urged people to follow sanitary and social distancing guidelines — things that include hand washing and remaining 6 feet apart from others — in order to protect health care workers when they are not in the hospital. These workers can include physicians and nurses along with technicians and cleaning personnel.

“We all need social distancing, so when health care workers leave their jobs they need to practice the social distancing protocols just as much, more perhaps than anybody else,” Atlas said.

That has to come with a balancing act of making sure providers can get to and from their jobs. At one point all public transit in Baltimore would have been significantly reduced, Atlas said, but the hospital association encouraged it to remain at least partially open so hospital workers could get to work.

Metro in the Washington region is also running on a very limited schedule, with leaders saying it should only be used by essential personnel, including health care workers.

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