As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues to escalate, HCA Houston Healthcare is implementing universal masking for all colleagues and providers in patient care areas. Masks will be optional only for colleagues in non-patient care areas who can consistently maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet aside from brief interactions with colleagues.
Our top priority is protecting our patients, clinicians, nurses, and colleagues so we can best serve our communities through the duration of this pandemic. 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.
We are taking this step now because of evidence we see that, while social distancing is a key strategy for interrupting the spread of coronavirus, it 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 colleagues in supply chain are prepared to address our needs. Even though HCA Healthcare currently has adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, we will continue to take steps to conserve PPE, including reuse and reprocessing of PPE where appropriate.
We are now 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 1 masks for all colleagues not needing higher levels of protection.
- Level 3 masks for additional protection from fluids and droplets, and for use by colleagues caring directly for suspected COVID or COVID positive patients, except when performing aerosolized procedures.
- N-95 respirators for colleagues caring for suspected COVID or COVID positive patients, and are the only mask that should be used during aerosolizing procedures, such as intubation, nebulization, bronchoscopy, or suctioning.
As this crisis evolves, 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 usage and anticipated demand so we can allocate our stocks appropriately, even as it works 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 know that all our colleagues are making sacrifices in this extraordinary time. We thank them for their continued efforts and commitment to our patients.