For years one of my many jobs was to teach aircrew decontamination in a chemical/biological environment. During the doffing process (after potential exposure) we set up two lines. One was for people who had been swabbed and tested positive for contamination. The second line was an expedited process for those who test clean. Clean military members were immediately segregated so as to not cause cross-contamination. Maybe our medical facilities should learn a lesson from this.

As we build, expand, or modify medical facilities communicable diseases should be separated from non-communicable diseases. In other words, have two lines or access points to medical facilities. Waiting rooms and even staff should be segregated. This is not rocket science and I am amazed we have not done a better job in this area.

How many times have you shown up at your doctor’s office for a physical or an injury and had to sit with sick people with communicable diseases? I have often seen and heard the hacking coughs and sinus congestion of others while waiting for routine exams. Some years ago most medical facilities started putting masks near the door with instructions to put one on if you had flu or cold-like symptoms. The last thing someone wants to do who cannot breathe well is to put on a mask that will make it even harder!

The CDC estimates that between 5 and 20% of Americans get the flu each year. 2017 to 2018 was extremely bad with an estimated 810,000 people hospitalized for the flu and 61,000 dead. Aside from the tragic number of deaths and hospitalizations there is misery and lost productivity. For example, during that same time frame, the CDC estimates 45 million people caught the flu and 21 million sought medical help. That is an enormous loss of productivity not to mention suffering.

We are not even discussing the hundreds of millions of colds we get annually. Adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year, and children have even more according to the CDC. For people with asthma, emphysema, and other forms of COPD a severe cold can cause suffering, loss of work, and death.

We cannot change this immediately. The costs would be substantial to build separate waiting areas, entry doors, and install automatic doors that people do not need to touch. However, if we take the long view reduction of lost productivity alone would provide a great return on investment for both business and government.

Is it time to re-think how we set up our medical facilities? Should we take the military approach to chemical warfare training? What are your thoughts?


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