Tackling COVID-19 outbreaks and staff shortages in care homes: deploying rapid response teams

Adelina Comas-Herrera (CPEC)

There is a growing number of examples of “strike teams” or “rapid response teams” being sent to care homes that become overwhelmed, this post provides some of these examples, which suggests that, as the number of outbreaks grow, countries may need to start recruiting and training additional staff and maybe volunteers that can be deployed to support care homes that are at risk of becoming non-viable.

Why do care homes risk being overwhelmed?

  • Staff who develop symptoms need to self-isolate, early reports that as many as half of staff may be unavailable as a result
  • The complexity of providing care in a home increases with COVID19 outbreaks, as a result of needing to change care practices to isolate those with symptoms, and increased care needs.

Examples of Rapid Response Teams being deployed:

United States

The US first deployed a strike team of U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers to the Life Care Center in Kirkland. The team of 28 included physicians, physicians’ assistants, nurses, technicians and other medical care personnel and has already begun caring for elderly members of the nursing home that has been hard hit by the COVID-19 virus:



There are numerous examples of rapid response teams being deployed in Spain. Initially the army was deployed to support homes with disinfection tasks, however, it rapidly became clear that additional measures where needed. This has resulted in new legislation by the central government and a recruitment and training drive by regional governments.

The article below from El Pais reports on the new legislation has been passed that enables regional governments to take over the running of facilities (including private sector) that become overwhelmed. The law also makes provision for support if homes are affected by delays in the removal of the bodies of residents who die in the homes as a result of COVID19.

(in Spanish) https://elpais.com/sociedad/2020-03-26/al-menos-352-muertes-y-2444-contagios-de-coronavirus-en-las-residencias.html

In Catalonia, for example, on the 27th March, the department of work, social affairs and government announced the recruitment of an additional 70 care professionals to join the existing team of 83 professionals that have already been deployed to 22 care homes. These new staff will also support people with care and support needs who live in the community. People are invited to register via an online portal and all newly recruited staff will receive dedicated online training.

(in Catalan) https://govern.cat/salapremsa/notes-premsa/383673/treball-afers-socials-families-consorci-salut-social-catalunya-contracten-primers-70-professionals-reforcar-residencies-manca-personal-pel-covid-19

Suggested citation:

Comas-Herrera (2020) Tackling COVID-19 outbreaks and staff shortages in care homes: deploying rapid response teams. Article in LTCcovid.org, International Long-Term Care Policy Network, CPEC-LSE.

Leave a Reply