Hospital infection prevention resources cut

Hospitals are cutting staff, resources and education for infection prevention at a time when the prevalence of many healthcare-associated infections is increasing, according to a report released today by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

The "2009 APIC Economic Survey" found that of nearly 2,000 infection preventionists who responded, 41 percent reported reductions in budgets for infection prevention in the last 18 months due primarily to the economic downturn.

According to the survey, three-quarters of those whose budgets were cut experienced decreases for the necessary education that trains healthcare personnel in preventing the transmission of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) such as MRSA and C. difficile. Half saw reductions in overall budgets for infection prevention, including money for technology, staff, education, products, equipment and updated resources. Nearly 40 percent had layoffs or reduced hours, and a third experienced hiring freezes.

"We are concerned by these findings," said APIC 2009 President Christine J. Nutty, RN, MSN, CIC. "At a time when the federal government will be requiring hospitals to meet national targets for HAI reduction, infection prevention departments at our nation's healthcare facilities need to be growing, not shrinking."

A third of survey respondents say that cuts in staffing and resources have reduced their capacity to focus on infection prevention activities. A quarter of respondents have had to reduce surveillance activities to detect, track and monitor HAIs.

"Every healthcare facility must have the resources to identify infections, conduct a systematic investigation to determine the cause, and implement and evaluate prevention measures," said Nutty. "These are the most essential components of infection prevention."

The survey also found that only one in five respondents have data mining programs -- electronic surveillance systems that allow infection preventionists to discover and investigate potential infections in real-time, enabling them to intervene quickly. Nearly two-thirds of respondents have one or less than one full-time staff person dedicated to infection prevention, while almost 90 percent have zero or less than one full-time staff person for clerical or analytic support.

"Infection prevention departments at our nation's healthcare facilities are severely under-staffed and under-resourced," said APIC CEO Kathy L. Warye. "Without enough trained professionals, funding and high-tech solutions that speed access to infection-related data, we are not going to continue to make progress in eliminating preventable infections. While cuts in staff, training and technology may ease budgets in the short-term, the effect of increased infections will erode the bottom line over time, not to mention cause needless pain, suffering and death."

"Healthcare executives must invest in their infection prevention programs. It's the right thing for patients and it saves hospitals money," Warye added.

HAIs are among the ten leading causes of death in the U.S., accounting for an estimated 1.7 million infections and 99,000 associated deaths each year. They incur more than $20 billion in excess healthcare costs annually.

The APIC survey was conducted March 20-27, 2009; 1,943 out of 12,000 APIC members responded. Three-quarters of survey respondents work at acute care hospitals. Responses were received from all sizes of facilities and hospitals. Visit www.apic.org/EconomicSurvey to see the full report.

APIC's mission is to improve health and patient safety by reducing risks of infection and other adverse outcomes. The association's more than 12,000 members direct infection prevention programs that save lives and improve the bottom line for hospitals and other healthcare facilities around the globe. To promote a culture within healthcare where targeting zero healthcare-associated infections is fully embraced, APIC has created the "Targeting Zero" initiative to accelerate both learning and delivery of practical tools for infection preventionists. APIC advances its mission through education, research, collaboration, practice guidance, public policy and credentialing. Visit APIC online at www.apic.org. For consumer-related information, visit www.preventinfection.org.

http://www.apic.org/ and http://www.preventinfection.org/

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