Unlike natural disasters disruption to operations in the event of a pandemic is anticipated to be mainly human-resource oriented. The hospitals should plan for up to 50% to 80% employee absences for periods of about two weeks at the height of a severe pandemic wave, and lower levels of employee absence for a few weeks either side of the peak. Overall a pandemic wave may last about 8 weeks and the pandemic may come in waves of varying severity over time.
A critical issue is the risk of saturation of intensive care unit (ICU) beds and non-ICU beds, as well as hospital isolation capacity (droplet isolation rooms and single-bed rooms).
The shortage of health care personnel due to the infection and of personal protective equipment (PPE) could have a dramatic impact on the management of hospitals. Due to the potential increase in the number of patients infected the public health authorities in EU/EEA countries are encouraged to plan for sufficient PPE supplies for their health professionals and ensure surge capacity procedures are also in place. The estimates of the minimum number of PPE sets for different case scenario are reported in the figure.
At the current stage of the pandemic an overall crisis management scheme should be adopted, and activation of contingency plans need to be activated as an absolute priority. Evidence from north Italy showed a significant pressure experienced in emergency departments and critical care services, specifically in the availability of ventilator equipment and PPE.