As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues to escalate, at Mission Health we are adapting our mask guidelines to increase the protection of our staff, providers and patients. Beginning by close of business today, March 31, we are implementing universal masking for all staff and providers across Mission Health and HCA Healthcare. These new guidelines apply to all areas of our patient care facilities, not just those where suspected COVID or COVID-positive patients are being treated.
Masks will be optional only for staff in non-patient care areas who can consistently maintain social distancing of at least six feet during brief interactions with colleagues.
We are taking this step now because of evidence that social distancing, while a key strategy for interrupting the spread of coronavirus, is difficult to maintain in the busy patient care environment. Also, our latest analysis of our ability to meet the demand for additional use of masks gives us confidence that our supply chain colleagues are prepared to address our needs. And even though HCA Healthcare currently has adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), we will continue to take steps to conserve PPE, including reprocessing of PPE where appropriate as we have been doing, and our PPE stewards will continue their work in each location.
As this process begins later today, we will begin deploying three types of masks, depending on the clinical role, the type of care the patient is receiving, and the level of suspicion for infection with COVID.
- Level I “procedure” masks for all staff not needing higher levels of protection. These masks can also be used for caring for suspected or confirmed COVID patients when paired with a full face shield.
- Level 3 masks for additional protection from fluids and droplets, and for use by staff caring directly for suspected COVID or COVID positive patients, except when performing aerosolized procedures.
- N-95 respirators for staff caring for suspected COVID or COVID positive patients. These are the only masks that should be used during aerosolizing procedures, such as intubation, nebulization, bronchoscopy, or suctioning.
As this crisis progresses, Mission Health and HCA Healthcare will continue to evolve to meet the challenges. Since January, we have been continually monitoring PPE usage, carefully analyzing and implementing the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration for best PPE practices. Our supply chain has continually worked with our epidemiologists and data scientists to track use and anticipated demand so we can allocate our stocks appropriately. We are also working around the clock to safeguard existing supplies and secure additional shipments. We have appointed PPE czars in each of our facilities to manage supplies in the face of oncoming surges.
We trust you will consider this very good news, and we look forward to sharing more specifics with you before we begin implementation later today. Your leader will have more details as this process rolls out.