Jun 30, 2020 Welcome Back

extreme cleaning and many other measures make our facilities safe for careExtensive COVID-19 testing of staff and patients, extreme cleaning and many other measures make our facilities safe for care.

The safety and health of our patients and team members have always been top priorities at RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH). Now we’ve taken everything the medical profession has learned about COVID-19 and implemented best practices at all of our facilities.

Dr. John Bonamo“At RWJBarnabas Health, we’ve been on a safety journey to becoming a High Reliability Organization for three years,” says John Bonamo, MD, Executive Vice President, Chief Quality Officer and Chief Medical Officer for RWJBH. “The high safety standards we had before the pandemic are making it possible for us to come back confident.”

Safety is an all-encompassing effort. “Every little thing we do is a building block aimed at making our facilities COVID-free,” says Dr. Bonamo.

What we're doing

Testing is a major way RWJBH hospitals are keeping COVID-19 from spreading. Every admitted patient, every surgical patient and every Emergency Department patient with flu-like symptoms is tested. In addition, team members—whether they work directly with patients or not—are tested, many of them multiple times.

Hospital administrators and staff also have taken a hard look at all relevant processes, including how rooms are cleaned, how personal protective equipment (PPE) is used—even how air in the hospitals is circulated. “As we discharge COVID-19 patients, the rooms in which they were cared for get a special deep cleaning,” Dr. Bonamo says. “We clean everything in the room to the nth degree, from top to bottom—including changing all the air filters and cleaning all the vents.”

RWJBH has taken the enormous step of retooling all of its heating and cooling systems to pull in fresh air from outside, rather than continuously recirculating the air inside a building.

“It’s a big expense for the small number of infections it’s likely to prevent,” says Dr. Bonamo, “but each small yield of prevented cases adds up and is very important because of how quickly this disease spreads.”

What you can do

Although health care is an essential service, many people have avoided going to the doctor or hospital to limit their risk of exposure to COVID-19. That fear is unfounded when visiting RWJBH facilities—and it could be dangerous. Putting off urgent medical care or physician visits for chronic disease management, childhood immunizations and other health services can have devastating effects.

“You don’t want the virus, but you also don’t want a heart attack or a stroke, or for your child to get a different infectious disease,” says Dr. Bonamo. “You’re not protecting your health by staying away, you’re jeopardizing it.”

“We take public health and safety extraordinarily seriously,” Dr. Bonamo continues. “We understand why people might want to avoid coming to the hospital, but it’s important for everyone to know that we can keep them safe and help them get healthy.”

No effort spared

Preventing the spread of COVID-19

We’re going beyond the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New Jersey Department of Health and other trusted organizations to implement best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Steps we’re taking:

  • Stringent cleaning and disinfection of all rooms, including all equipment, surfaces and air vents
  • COVID-19 testing for all surgical patients, all admitted patients and all patients with flu-like symptoms in the Emergency Department
  • COVID-19 testing for doctors, nurses and other staff. Those who have a negative test will be retested to guard against false negatives
  • Continued restriction of visitors based on directives from the state of New Jersey
  • Active screening of team members, patients and visitors (when permitted), as they enter a facility
  • Requirement for everyone who enters a facility to wear a mask or face covering
  • Strict requirements for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) with both COVID-19 positive and non-COVID patients
  • Social and physical distancing measures for all people in our facilities—in all employee and patient areas
  • Strict hand hygiene rules, with hand sanitizer in all employee and patient areas
  • Retooling of the heating and cooling systems in our facilities to bring fresh air in from outside rather than recirculating inside air
  • Continued preparation and readiness for potential future surges.