Today is the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, an especially significant date given our present situation. As health workers, we are usually the ones who care for the workforce. But now, we must also protect ourselves. In order to look after the health of our patients, we must first take care of ourselves.
After a period of time in which activity in reproduction clinics has been at a complete standstill, it is now time to reduce the strict safety measures and return to our previous tasks. Now we are faced with the following challenging questions: How should we go about this reemergence? What guidelines must be followed for a safe and successful re-introduction of the healthcare staff in the fertility services?
The Spanish Society of Fertility (SEF) and the Association for the Study of Reproductive Biology (ASEBIR) have been assessing the necessary safety measures that the reproduction centers should take when resuming their activity. After studying the matter in terms of patient care and assistance as well as regarding all laboratory procedures, they have prepared a document that will serve as a guide when re-initiating activity (you can also see the webinar related to the document here).
As the document clearly specifies, "although occupational risk prevention is part of our daily activity and is incorporated into our protocols, we must adopt extraordinary measures in the event of an outbreak of any infection".
The scientific community gives the following nine basic recommendations to guarantee the safety of the workforce in reproduction services:
- Promote teleworking whenever possible.
- If possible, physically separate the staff in different rooms and reduce as much physical interaction between them as possible.
- Evaluate the possibility and usefulness of organizing separate working groups to ensure continuity of care in case of contagion.
- Provide all staff with training on safety practices and risks of COVID-19.
- Adapt contingency plans to the new health situation.
- Increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfection of all rooms used by both staff and patients. This should be done using approved products and following standard work procedures based on the recommendations of the competent health authorities.
- Following the recommendations of the Ministry of Health, develop a plan to handle cases among the staff members who may be particularly vulnerable to suffering from COVID-19.
- Provide each department with the necessary protective material. This should be adapted to the level of direct contact that they will have with the patients and other staff members or to their level of exposure to patients' biological material.
- Comply with strict hand hygiene before and after contact with the patient and upon removal of PPE.
At IVI, we go one step further with safety
"At IVI, we have gone one step further to ensure safety. In addition to following the advice of the scientific community, we have developed a reincorporation plan in all of our centers that focuses on the knowing the serologic status of both our employees and patients. The serologic assessment of our team will give us an idea of the immunization status of each clinic,” explains Antonio Requena, IVI's medical director.
The IVI is being very rigorous in raising its healthcare staff’s awareness of the situation. These measures include helping the staff to identify any symptoms compatible with the COVID-19 disease, as well as collecting information about their day-to-day life to be able to guarantee that they have not come into contact with the virus. “Our professionals’ education and awareness regarding the necessary preventive measures is as important or even more so than the measures that we take in our centers,” adds Requena.
“We are aware that we are starting a new phase in our professional lives where things may possibly never be the same. We must, however, always learn from adversity. We must realize that the new occupational health habits that we are learning now will be an improvement today and in the future.”