By: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read April 2020 — Aspire Health Partners is Florida’s largest behavioral health nonprofit. Here, President and CEO Babette Hankey discusses the organization’s surge planning and its efforts to ensure the safety of its workforce in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak that has gripped the world.
What accommodations is your system making to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak?
We have established Surge Plans for all of our campuses, and have made sure that every campus, team member, and individual unit is trained, prepared and equipped to absorb any surge of patients we may experience. We have isolation capacity on every unit and have identified additional units that can be used if necessary. We are also partnering with others within the community for contingency planning.
How is Aspire Health working to ensure that patients and healthcare professionals alike are maintaining a safe environment?
The health, well-being and safety of our patients and team members are of paramount importance. We have established a single point of access for each of our facilities. We are screening everyone that enters, and only patients receiving services and staff providing those services are allowed access to our facilities. Additionally, we have initiated tele-health, tele-medicine, tele-group and tele-visit services throughout our system of care wherever appropriate to maintain social and physical distancing. We have established enhanced Infection Control processes and have established daily updates that are communicated to all staff. Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is provided to our staff when warranted and as new information is released from the WHO, the CDC and the DOH protocols are updated as necessary.
How can the community best assist the local healthcare providers in this time of need?
Obviously, stay at home, practice standard precautions, and don’t go out (self-quarantine) if you are sick or have any symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu. It is important that we all stay connected for maintaining positive mental health. Call your family, friends and neighbors and check on them. Make the connection, even if it can’t be physical. Let them know you care. Listen to them. If you begin to experience problems, physical or emotional, reach out to your healthcare provider or to a company like Aspire that has trained professionals 24/7 to assist with anxiety, depression and other feelings of despair. Aspire has a dedicated COVID-19 line for people to call: 407.875-3700 and push 2. Together, we will get through this.
What would your message be to the local community that is sheltering in place and waiting for a return to normalcy?
First and most importantly, I encourage all those who can to please stay home and adhere to the stay at home orders issued by our governor. If we all adhere to that, we can flatten the curve. Secondly, stay informed, but don’t obsess on the news coverage. Take care of yourself, your family and your neighbors, both physically and emotionally. Take time to de-stress by walking, exercising and spending time with your family, while ensuring that all CDC guidelines of social distancing are being followed. We are all in this together and we will get through this together. We will be a stronger community in the end.
Do you feel you are receiving enough state and federal support for items you are in need of? What can the state and federal governments be doing better in this regard?
The state and federal government are doing their best to assist. We understand that this is something we have never seen before and are learning together in these unprecedented times. While resources are limited, all levels of government have demonstrated a high level of commitment to ensuring that all available resources are tapped and committed to this effort. Our greatest challenge, which is nationwide, is having adequate PPE for our front-line healthcare workers. Our community is responding by making masks for our team members, for which we are forever grateful. As we see increased cases and have to quarantine our staff and patients, we are looking at ways to have a healthy workforce so that we can continue to meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens at a time when they need us the most.
It is imperative that we fight this as a united front and recognize the efforts that are being made throughout our nation as we navigate through these uncharted times. It is important that our leaders acknowledge the public’s heightened level of anxiety, provide reassurance and consistent messaging. Prioritizing getting supplies, getting people well, back to their daily lives and back to work is our common goal and working together, as communities, states and a nation we will achieve this. The efforts at hand are about saving lives and coming together for a healthy and stronger community and nation.
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