Surge capacity for healthcare services during respiratory disease outbreaks

Added June 10, 2022

Citation: Gupta N, Balcom SA, Gulliver A, et al. Health workforce surge capacity during the COVID‐19 pandemic and other global respiratory disease outbreaks: A systematic review of health system requirements and responses. International Journal of Health Planning and Management. 2021;36(S1):26-41.

Language: Abstract and full text available in EN.

Free to view: Yes.

Funding sources: Canadian Research Continuity Emergency Fund.

What is this? The COVID-19 pandemic and other respiratory disease outbreaks can lead to surges in demand for healthcare services.

In this systematic review, the authors searched for studies of temporal changes in human resources for health capacity, related to the demands caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They restricted their searches to articles published in English and French between January 2000 and June 2020. They included 16 studies, one of which used a model population while the others were from Argentina (1 study), Australia (1), Brazil (1), Europe (1), Hong Kong (1), the Netherlands (3), New Zealand (2), Norway (1) and USA (4).

What works: Facilitators to the implementation of human resources for health capacity during surges include resource reallocation, staffing models that are adjusted to the pandemic, broader training for in-service workers and volunteer engagement.

What doesn’t work: In non-pandemic contexts, resource reallocation from specific services led to negative responses from staff.

What is uncertain: The effects of responsive governance options strategies during post-pandemic periods on pandemic recovery are uncertain.

Implications: The authors of the review stated that more timely, comprehensive, generalizable human resources for health capacity evidence is needed, along with equity considerations, to improve preparedness, response and recovery policies for the COVID-19 pandemic and future pandemics. They conclude that human resources for health capacity decision-making should consider the health workers’ perspectives prior to reallocating resources in acute surge events.

Other considerations: The authors of the review discussed their findings in the context of place of residence, occupation, gender, sex, education and time-dependent relationships (pandemic preparedness, response and recovery stages).


This summary was prepared by Yasmeen Saeed and finalized by Mike Clarke.

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