Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
November 2020 | New York City, NY
The New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) implemented a successful health care liaison program to support acute and long-term care facilities throughout the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The health care liaison program provided support to these facilities to monitor, review, and resolve operational issues and requests related to space, staff, and resources. The principal component of this program was a cadre of health care liaisons, comprised of DOHMH school health nurse staff. Due to COVID-19-related school closures, agency school health nurse staff was identified as an available staffing source and was temporarily redeployed to support the response. Health care liaisons reported to staff in the Health Department’s Incident Command System (ICS) Healthcare System Support Branch (HSSB) engaged in the response to COVID-19.
The NYC DOHMH tasked the health care liaisons to reach out to NYC’s nursing homes and hospitals daily, identify facility needs, and log these needs as tickets for escalation and resolution through an electronic tracking system. HSSB staff managed this tracking system and referred tickets to other DOHMH staff who could address the specific need indicated in the ticket. Ticket topics included delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other non-medical supplies, staffing needs, infection control practices, or the latest clinical guidance for patient care.
From late November 2020 to early February 2021, at this operation’s peak capacity, 42 health care liaisons contacted NYC’s 169 nursing homes and 55 hospitals. These health care liaisons were essential for the DOHMH to address over 1,000 tickets, the largest proportion of which came from nursing homes, which manage a highly vulnerable patient population. Nursing homes submitted tickets mainly focused on facility needs for clinical guidance, waivers, and COVID-19 testing, whereas hospitals submitted tickets largely focused on matters related to COVID-19 vaccines.DOHMH continues to monitor health care system capacity at this stage of the pandemic response and could use the health care liaison program and its electronic ticket tracking system in the future to identify issues and rapidly provide support to the city’s health care system. The health care liaison program demonstrates how critical local health departments are to the health care system in times of emergency and the program helps develop innovative solutions to meet the multifaceted needs of health care partners faced with significant, high-acuity patient volumes when resources are scarce.
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