Infectious Disease

COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated weaknesses in patient safety, APIC says

March 08, 2022

2 min read

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Disclosures:
Dickey reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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The leading US professional association for infection preventionists published recommendations on Tuesday that it said will ensure the country is better prepared to protect patients during a health emergency like COVID-19.

The pandemic has strained resources for hospital infection preventionists, with the results of an informal poll suggesting they spend most of their time on COVID-19 response efforts.

Source: Adobe Stock.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology published recommendations to shore up the country’s infection prevention and control infrastructure. Source: Adobe Stock.

However, such programs were “underfunded and understaffed” even before the pandemic, according to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

“The pandemic exacerbated those patient safety weaknesses, leaving health care facilities with insufficient capacity to prevent common, often deadly, health care-associated infections,” APIC said in a news release accompanying the new recommendations.

The recommendations are a “call to action” for the US to allocate for better infection prevention and control infrastructure.

“APIC is issuing this call to action as we all recall the nightmare of extensive supply shortages and overworked health care workers,” APIC President Linda Dickey, RN, MPH, CIC, FAPIC, said in the release. “Especially troubling to APIC is how many preventable infections were transmitted inside hospitals during COVID-19 because that resilience was not built into our health care system.”

The new 66-page report, titled Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Recommendations for Balancing Patient Safety and Pandemic Response, urges policymakers to allocate funding to increase surge capacity by:

  • developing next-generation universal personal protective equipment — a one-size-fits-all device to protect all health care workers;
  • normalizing mask use in public — building trust among Americans, regarding efficacy of masking;
  • addressing supply chain failures, which will ensure greater diversity in production locations and expand ease of access;
  • requiring health care facilities to include personnel with infection prevention and control expertise;
  • ensuring that all nursing homes have at least one dedicated infection prevention expert on staff;
  • building and implementing an infection prevention and control surge capacity to ensure continued patient care throughout a pandemic;
  • increasing capacity for testing and contact tracing, in order to control disease spread throughout a pandemic;
  • ensuring rapid health care data collection and sharing, which will optimize strategies to prevent transmission;
  • building vaccine confidence to combat misinformation and hesitancy; other
  • funding pandemic preparedness workforce capacity and training, including incentives for universities to create a pathway to the infection prevention profession.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first pandemic in the history of humanity, nor will it be the last,” the authors wrote. “Infection preventionists have played a lead role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and have taken note of the significant experiences and associated lessons present during their response. Policy, health care, and community stakeholders throughout the United States and the world should reflect upon these lessons and recommendations as they provide a road map toward improved pandemic preparedness.”

In September, the CDC reported a rise in some health care-associated infections. Because of the pandemic strain on health care systems, central line-associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated UTIs, ventilator-associated events and cases of MRSA increased exponentially.

“For the US to create a safer, more resilient health care system, policymakers should make the substantial investments recommended by the hands-on infection prevention experts who had a unique vantage point as the pandemic overwhelmed hospitals, nursing homes and clinics nationwide,” Dickey said.

To help health care facilities assess their infection control and prevention capacity, APIC launched a new campaign called “HAI Fast Forward: Accelerating HAI Prevention.” It will include a series of initiatives to assist organizations reduce health care-associated infections back to prepandemic levels.

References:

HAI Fast Forward: Accelerating HAI Prevention. https://apic.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/PandemicResponse_WhiteP-FINAL.pdf. Published March 8, 2022. Accessed March 8, 2022.

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