Accreditation is a peer-review process, which means PHAB depends on volunteer public health professionals who are engaged in the day-to-day work of health departments all over the country to conduct accreditation reviews. As health departments -- PHAB's core customers -- gear up for a potential threat, such as COVID-19, so too will PHAB's volunteers. This scenario creates the potential for unavoidable disruptions in the accreditation process.
Just as health department personnel actively participate in scenario planning and responding to emerging public health threats such as COVID-19, PHAB is also considering how such threats might affect applicant health departments, site visitors, and other volunteers who serve PHAB in various capacities, such as on PHAB's Board, Think Tanks, Committees, Expert Panels and Workgroups, all of whom play critical roles in the public health accreditation model.
PHAB remains committed to "business as usual," but recognizes that certain circumstances may dictate that different arrangements be made. A major outbreak or pandemic has the potential to impact all aspects of PHAB's business model. Some of the most important implications PHAB is anticipating, and therefore considering, at this point in time are high rates of absenteeism, disruptions in business travel, and controlling risk of infection among PHAB staff and volunteers.
PHAB has developed policies and procedures for those occasions when an individual health department faces local or regional issues impacting its ability to stay engaged in, or on schedule with, the accreditation process. For example, PHAB allows health departments to receive extensions due to extenuating circumstances. Similarly, PHAB provides accommodations when a member of a Site Visit Team, Board, or PHAB committee cannot perform their volunteer work for PHAB due to extenuating circumstances affecting them personally.
In the spirit of transparency and thinking proactively, PHAB puts forth the following commitments and reminders to its customers, volunteers, and other stakeholders in the event that COVID-19, or some other future threat to the public's health, becomes widespread within the United States and could potentially disrupt the accreditation process.
It is therefore important to note that:
- PHAB is committed to doing everything possible to continue to support health departments and site visitors in the way we always have.
- PHAB is committed to all currently scheduled site visits proceeding as planned whenever possible. However, certain circumstances may dictate that an alternative arrangement or site visit format be considered in order to maintain the agreed upon site visit dates. Any change in site visit schedule or format (in-person vs. remote) will only be made if the affected health department, PHAB, and Site Visit Team agree that the proposed change is appropriate for that specific review and any decision to propose and/or make a change to a site visit will be done in consultation with the affected health department.
- If your health department is heavily involved in responding to a crisis, you may ask PHAB for an extension for the step of the accreditation process your department is currently working on and/or to reschedule a site visit.
PHAB is sharing this information now because we are uncertain how COVID-19 will play out in the United States and want our customers, volunteers, and stakeholders to know that we are anticipating and preparing for circumstances to arise over the next several weeks and months that we could not have predicted. Therefore we are putting plans in place to ensure we can deliver the same high quality customer service and support to health departments and volunteers we have always aimed to provide, while also acknowledging that we may experience disturbances and delays in our normal accreditation time frames as the result of response efforts affecting those customers and volunteers.
Please let your Accreditation Specialist know if you have any questions about this message, need to discuss possible accommodations that your respective health department may require, or if you may require special accommodations as a volunteer site visit team member.
For questions, please contact PHAB Chief Administrative Officer Mark Paepcke.