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Alternative Care Sites: An Option in DisastersDuring the current COVID-19 pandemic, the limited surge capacity of the healthcare system is being quickly overwhelmed. Similar scenarios play out when an institution’s systems fail, or when local or regional disasters occur. In these situations, it becomes necessary to use one or more alternative care sites (ACS). Situated in a variety of non-healthcare structures, ACS may be used for ambulatory, acute, subacute, or chronic care. Developing alternative care facilities is the disaster-planning step that moves communities from talking to doing. This commitment pays real dividends if a disaster of any magnitude strikes. This paper discusses the basic criteria for selecting, establishing and ultimately closing an ACS, difficulties of administration, staffing, security, and providing basic supplies and equipment.
Healthcare Ethics During a PandemicAs clinicians and support personnel struggle with their responsibilities to treat during the current COVID-19 pandemic, several ethical issues have emerged. Will healthcare workers and support staff fulfill their duty to treat in the face of high risks? Will institutional and government leaders at all levels do the right things to help alleviate healthcare workers risks and fears? Will physicians be willing to make hard, resource-allocation decisions if they cannot first husband or improvise alternatives? With our healthcare facilities and governments unprepared for this inevitable disaster, front-line doctors, advanced providers, nurses, EMS, and support personnel struggle with acute shortages of equipment—both to treat patients and protect themselves. With their personal and possibly their family’s lives and health at risk, they must weigh the option of continuing to work or retreat to safety. This decision, made daily, is based on professional and personal values, how they perceive existing risks—including available protective measures, and their perception of the level and transparency of information they receive. Often, while clinicians get this information, support personnel do not, leading to absenteeism and deteriorating healthcare services. Leadership can use good risk communication (complete, widely transmitted, and transparent) to align healthcare workers’ risk perceptions with reality. They also can address the common problems healthcare workers must overcome to continue working (ie, risk mitigation techniques). Physicians, if they cannot sufficiently husband or improvise lifesaving resources, will have to face difficult triage decisions. Ideally, they will use a predetermined plan, probably based on the principles of Utilitarianism (maximizing the greatest good) and derived from professional and community input. Unfortunately, none of these plans is optimal.