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Close air support: enhancing emergency care in the COVID-19 pandemic

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm and overwhelmed healthcare institutions even in developed countries. In response, clinical staff and resources have been redeployed to the areas of greatest need, that is, intensive care units and emergency rooms (ER), to reinforce front-line manpower. We introduce the concept of close air support (CAS) to augment ER operations in an efficient, safe and scalable manner. Teams of five comprising two on-site junior ER physicians would be paired with two CAS doctors, who would be off-site but be in constant communication via teleconferencing to render real-time administrative support. They would be supervised by an ER attending. This reduces direct viral exposure to doctors, conserves precious personal protective equipment and allows ER physicians to focus on patient care. Medical students can also be involved in a safe and supervised manner. After 1 month, the average time to patient disposition was halved. General feedback was also positive. CAS improves efficiency and is safe, scalable and sustainable. It has also empowered a previously untapped group of junior clinicians to support front-line medical operations, while simultaneously protecting them from viral exposure. Institutions can consider adopting our novel approach, with modifications made according to their local context.

  • clinical care
  • disaster planning and response
  • emergency care systems, efficiency
  • emergency department operations

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