Help, my veterinary hospital might need to close due to COVID-19 exposure. How should I prepare?

The best thing you can do is have a plan.  Have a plan for how you will communicate to the team, how you will communicate to your clients, how will you sanitize the hospital, and a long list of other things your hospital needs to do now.

But most importantly, don’t give up!  You can have a plan to help minimize the chaos that you and your employees are feeling and that will help you survive this crazy time.  

Things you should do now

  1. Get remote access to your hospital, not just for you but anyone who is going to be working from home.
    1. Will you provide those employees with work computers or will they use their own?
  2. If you will have team members working from home, will they be able to answer the phones?
    1. Contact your phone provider and see if calls can be rerouted to cell phones and what you will need to do to make this happen.
  3.  Determine, who will handle client questions or problems while you are closed.  I recommend having more than one person in case that person is sick.
  4. Talk to other clinics in the area and create a plan with them so they can help your clients & patients. Do not worry about competition because right now your clients & patients need you.
  5. Talk to your alarm company about what you will need to do for prolonged absence from your building.
  6. If appropriate, contact your local police department and notify them you building might be vacant for a period of time.
  7. Determine what you will do with the cash & controlled drugs in your hospital while you are closed.
  8. If you have hospital pets, who will take care of them? (include your fish/reptiles/small mammals)

Things you need to think about for the immediate future

  1. Think about what you will no longer have access to if you are not in the hospital
    1. Important documents
    2. Records
    3. Important information saved in “one” computer
    4. Other things that are important to you 
    5. How will you do payroll?
      1. What type of pay will your employees receive while you are closed?
        1. FFCRA leave, PTO, SICK, VACA, etc.
  1. Employee communication
    1. Who will the staff be communicating with during this time? And how they will be doing this?
      1. Do you need to set up a text chain, use email, or a simple phone call?
        1. Some resources for instant team communication
          1. Slack
          2. Group Me
          3. Whats App
      2. How often will they be notified of the updates?
        1. Daily, weekly, etc.
        2. Will you require your team members to check in with you weekly?
      3. Do you have all of your employees contact information easily accessible? Do they have each others contact information?
      4. Do you have emergency contact info for your employees? Meaning do you have a friend or relative that you will be able to reach in case you can’t reach the employee.
      5. If you have to close, should your employees take their belonging with them (including any food in the fridge)?
  1. Client communication
    1. How will you notify your clients of the closure and any other communication needed?
      1. Social media
      2. Website
      3. Email
    2. What will you do with the client pets that are in the hospital?
      1. What if they are boarding and you can’t reach the client?
    3. What will happen with the future appointments?
      1. Will you call them?
      2. Send an email?
      3. Text?
        1. And who be doing this?  Assign multiple people this job in case one of them gets sick in the future.
    4. How will your clients get their food/prescription refills? Will you have a doctor able to check those things?
      1. What happens if clients request refills through your online pharmacy? Will they get approved or do you have to do that each time?
    5. Who will be checking the clinic email/fax?
      1. Make sure you have enough paper in the fax machine if you have to close.
    6. Will you be able process payments from clients while you are closed?
    7. How will clients get their records?
    8. How will clients get the pending lab results? Who will review & call them?
    9. How will you check the hospital v/m?
  1. Vendor Communication
    1. Notify any regular lab pick-up/cremation company, post office that you are closed.
    2. How will you handle deliveries that are being shipped to you?
      1. Food
      2. Inventory
      3. Office supplies
      4. UPS/FEDEX, etc.
    3. Do you have your reps and vendors contact information? They might be able to help during this time.
    4. What the deceased pets that are in your freezer? What will happen with the ashes/paw prints that are being delivered?
    5. Do you have any equipment that was borrowed or getting shipped back that you will need to communicate to the company about?
  1. Hospital Stuff
    1. How will your bills get paid?
    2. Will you need to turn off any equipment or computers?
      1. Does any of it need to be cleaned before closing?
    3. Who is going to make sure that hospital is safe while you are gone?
    4. If YOU, the manager, owner, leader gets sick, who is supposed to make the decisions?
    5. Practice owners, do you have your clinic protected in case you are hospitalized and unable to make decisions for the business?

How will you disinfect your hospital while you are closed, or to help prevent closing?  Have a professional company do this, DO NOT try to do this yourself.

Some companies that do clean up and disinfect for COVID-19

  1. ServePro
    1. Phones open 24 hours, service most of SOCAL
    2. 800-737-8776 (headquarters direct #)
    3. You will need to know the square footage of the building
  2. servicemaster
    1. Phones open 24 hours, service most of SOCAL
    2. 800-737-7663
  3. Janiking
    1. Service SOCAL
    2. 972-991-0900
  4. Stratus Building Solutions (not sure of areas of service)
    1. 818-981-1700
  5. Actionduct (not sure of areas of service)
    1. 800-371-2284
  6. Central Valley Corp (not sure of areas of service)
    1. 855-912-6787


What should I do if an employee is suspect or confirmed to have a case of COVID-19?

 Guidance for confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the workplace

The following information is combined from different pages from the CDC website link above.

In most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility. But do close off any areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick person:

  • Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for other employees being exposed to respiratory droplets. If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible GET A PROFESSIONAL CLEANER.
  • During this waiting period, open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in these areas.

Timing and location of cleaning and disinfection of surfaces

  • At a school, daycare center, office, or other facility that does not house people overnight:
    • Close off areas visited by the ill persons. Open outside doors and windows and use ventilating fans to increase air circulation in the area.
    • Wait 24 hours or as long as practical before beginning cleaning and disinfection.
    • Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment (like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines) used by the ill persons, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces. – I recommend contacting a professional COVID–19 cleaning service, listed at the end of the document. 
    • If you are cleaning it yourself, clean dirty surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting them.
    • To disinfect surfaces, use products that meet EPA criteria for use against SARS-Cov-2external iconexternal icon, the virus that causes COVID-19, and are appropriate for the surface.
    • Always wear gloves and gowns appropriate for the chemicals being used when you are cleaning and disinfecting.
    • You may need to wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE) depending on the setting and disinfectant product you are using.

In addition to cleaning and disinfecting, employers should determine which employees may have been exposed to the virus and need to take additional precautions:

Most work places will follow these basic CDC guidelines

Critical infostructure guidelines

Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps.

Employees should not return to work until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider and state or local health department.

If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

What should I do if I find out several days later, after an employee worked, that they were diagnosed with COVID-19?

  • If it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee used the facility, clean and disinfect all areas used by the sick employee following the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
  • If it has been 7 days or more since the sick employee used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary. Continue routinely cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces in the facility.
  • Other employees may have been exposed to the virus if they were in “close contact” (within approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) of the sick employee for a prolonged period of time.
  • Employees not considered exposed should self-monitor for symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. If they develop symptoms, they should notify their supervisor and stay home.

Here is another really good resource from the CDC for business guidance

Written by,

Melissa Tompkins, BS, CVPM, PHRca, CCFP


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