Hospital Preparedness for COVID-19: A Practical Guide from a Critical Care Perspective

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2020 Jun 1;201(11):1337-1344. doi: 10.1164/rccm.202004-1037CP.


In response to the estimated potential impact of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on New York City hospitals, our institution prepared for an influx of critically ill patients. Multiple areas of surge planning progressed, simultaneously focused on infection control, clinical operational challenges, ICU surge capacity, staffing, ethics, and maintenance of staff wellness. The protocols developed focused on clinical decisions regarding intubation, the use of high-flow oxygen, engagement with infectious disease consultants, and cardiac arrest. Mechanisms to increase bed capacity and increase efficiency in ICUs by outsourcing procedures were implemented. Novel uses of technology to minimize staff exposure to COVID-19 as well as to facilitate family engagement and end-of-life discussions were encouraged. Education and communication remained key in our attempts to standardize care, stay apprised on emerging data, and review seminal literature on respiratory failure. Challenges were encountered and overcome through interdisciplinary collaboration and iterative surge planning as ICU admissions rose. Support was provided for both clinical and nonclinical staff affected by the profound impact COVID-19 had on our city. We describe in granular detail the procedures and processes that were developed during a 1-month period while surge planning was ongoing and the need for ICU capacity rose exponentially. The approaches described here provide a potential roadmap for centers that must rapidly adapt to the tremendous challenge posed by this and potential future pandemics.

Keywords: ICUs; SARS virus; pandemics.

MeSH terms

  • Airway Management
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Critical Illness
  • Health Resources / supply & distribution*
  • Hospitalization
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / organization & administration
  • Intensive Care Units
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Surge Capacity*
  • Workforce / organization & administration