The Next Wave of COVID-19 Is Inevitable – Is Your Hospital Fully Prepared?

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing health systems and hospitals to develop new protocols and acquire new resources with unprecedented urgency. As total case numbers remain in flux, health experts believe the possibility of severe future “waves” remains high.1 At the time of this article’s publication, second waves are already occurring in multiple countries – such as Korea and Singapore -- that successfully managed infection control during initial outbreaks.2

To mitigate the staggering human and financial costs associated with future infection waves, health systems must make surge capacity a top priority. Health systems that lack the ability to accommodate an influx of COVID-19 patients should be developing plans to scale up or convert existing care units, as needed.

As health systems and hospitals prepare for the future, the value of mobile technologies has never been clearer.

The Need for Expanded and Alternate Care Facilities

By decentralizing necessary equipment, mobile care technologies play a crucial role in preparing care centers as for future cases. Portable medical suction allows health systems to allocate personnel and resources flexibly and in real-time, allowing non-essential care units to be converted, utilized, and scaled down, as appropriate.

For health systems located in densely populated areas, the use of alternate care sites (ACS) – emergency centers established solely for the purpose of treating COVID-19 – may also be required. Here, portable technology – including, but not limited to airway suction devices – facilitates rapid set-up, take-down, and treatment when time is essential. The CDC defines three levels of care associated with ACS, two of which require tracheal suction:5

  1. Non-Acute Care: General, low‐level care for mildly to moderately symptomatic COVID‐19 patients. These patients may require oxygen (less than or equal to 2L/min), but do not require extensive nursing care or assistance with activities of daily living (ADL).
  2. Hospital Care: Mid-level care for moderately symptomatic COVID-19 patients. Patients require oxygen (more than 2L/min), nursing care, and assistance with ADL.
  3. Acute Care: Higher acuity care for COVID‐19 patients. These patients require significant ventilatory support, including intensive monitoring on a ventilator.

Key Advantages of Portable Suction Machines

For patients requiring Hospital or Acute care, portable suction machines are a critical care component, as COVID-19 patients affected by Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) frequently require both ventilation and pre-ventilation airway suction (given high incidence of intratracheal fluid secretions).3

Relying on portable medical suction is a strategic and practical way to ensure this need is provided where and when it is necessary.

Did you know: Both the WHO and NHS recently issued guidelines recommending care centers avoid wall-mounted suction devices but use portable machines to limit spread of infection in urgent care centers.4,5  Additionally, wall-mounted systems limit flexibility of utilization, making them less useful in alternate or expanded care environments.

Portable suction machines – including Vario 18, Dominant Flex and Basic systems offered by Medela Healthcare – allow care providers to assign resources dynamically, pairing patients with suction units while using space more effectively and mitigating risk of infection.

All Medela portable suction machines provide effective, quiet suction with a small footprint, making them a suitable addition to any COVID-19 care environment. Additionally, Medela is providing extensive support to all practitioners using any Medela portable suction device, offering direct training, online resources, and rapid troubleshooting.

Defining the Future of Care, Together

Successfully managing future waves of COVID-19 relies on many factors, including cooperation and planning on a societal level. However, for care centers tasked with aligning infrastructure and resources to mitigate future risks, the strategic implementation of mobile technologies – including portable suction – should be promptly considered.

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1 Strazewski, L., 2020. Harvard Epidemiologist: Beware COVID-19’S Second Wave This Fall. [online] American Medical Association. Internet: Accessed 29 May 2020.


3 Report on 196 patients critically ill with COVID-19. ICNARC, 20 March 2020. Internet: 2020/03/22/Report-On-196-Patients-Critically-Ill-With-Covid-19

4 2020. Novel Coronavirus (COVID- 19) Standard Operating Procedure. Internet: Accessed 12 May 2020.

5 Severe Acute Respiratory Infections Treatment Centre, March 2020. Internet: SARI_treatment_center-2020.1-eng.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y, p. 99

6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). [online] Internet: Accessed 29 May 2020.