The COVID-19 public health emergency presented an unprecedented challenge for the HCCs.
Pandemic Training and Drills: As the novel coronavirus in Asia first hit the headlines in late 2019, the HCCs began planning emergency drills to assess and hone their readiness for an outbreak here. Coalition members in the regions participated in a tabletop/facilitated exercise to enhance their level of preparedness and awareness for the COVID-19 response. As the first wave escalated, the HCCs participated in weekly touchpoint calls spanning their broad group of stakeholders to discuss COVID-19-related gaps, challenges and needs.
Managing PPE Inventory: Personal protective equipment, or PPE, was a critical need to protect healthcare workers and patients from the spread of coronavirus. Worldwide demand for PPE led to severe shortages that challenged emergency planners. A vendor-managed inventory approach is used to manage a pre-existing cache of PPE supplies in the event of a regional or statewide emerging infectious disease outbreak that results in a strain on available supplies The HCCs joined with the New Jersey Hospital Association in facilitating a statewide agreement on an allocation methodology for distribution of PPE from the state stockpile and facilitated coordination and sharing among hospitals in need.
Estimating Healthcare Needs: HCC members used a Surge Estimator Tool to assess whether New Jersey’s healthcare system would have enough capacity to meet the needs of COVID-19 patients. The tool is designed to prepare stakeholders for potential incidents, understand their thresholds, determine potential resource needs based on initial incident information, anticipate mutual aid requests and allow rapid prediction about whether a given incident will outstrip the local beds available and how much support may be required from outside the coalition. While acute care hospitals were stretched to their maximum capacity in the COVID surge, they never exceeded capacity, assuring that every patient was provided a bed and, when needed, a ventilator.