APIC reports alarming rise in HAIs

March 8, 2022

As the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) is issuing an urgent call-to-action to shore up the nation’s infection prevention and control (IPC) infrastructure.

Even before the pandemic, hospital IPC programs were underfunded and understaffed. The pandemic exacerbated those patient safety weaknesses, leaving healthcare facilities with insufficient capacity to prevent common, often deadly, healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).

APIC published the report, BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE: Recommendations for Balancing Patient Safety and Pandemic Response, provides an extensive set of strategies to increase the IPC workforce, strengthen prevention programs, and build resiliency for future pandemics.

“APIC is issuing this call-to-action as we all recall the nightmare of extensive supply shortages and overworked healthcare workers,” said APIC 2022 President Linda Dickey, RN, MPH, CIC, FAPIC. “Especially troubling to APIC is how many preventable infections were transmitted inside hospitals during COVID because that resilience was not built into our healthcare system.”

In the report, APIC urges policymakers to allocate funding to build IPC surge capacity to ensure the continuity of safe patient care during a pandemic. The specific recommendations from the 66-page report include:

  • Develop next-generation universal PPE for a one-size-fits-all device to protect healthcare workers
  • Normalize the use of masks by the public during outbreaks of infectious diseases, building trust among the American people of their effectiveness
  • Address supply chain failures to ensure greater diversity in production locations and expanded ease of access
  • Require that health facilities include personnel with IPC expertise on emergency response teams to ensure the safety of response practices
  • Protect nursing home residents ensuring that each nursing home has at least one dedicated infection prevention expert on staff
  • Build and implement IPC surge capacity to ensure the continuity of safe patient care during a pandemic
  • Increase capacity for testing and contact tracing to control disease spread during a pandemic
  • Ensure rapid healthcare data collection and sharing to optimize strategies to prevent disease transmission
  • Build vaccine confidence to combat misinformation and dissuade hesitancy
  • Fund pandemic preparedness workforce capacity and training with incentives for universities to create a pathway to the infection prevention profession

In 2021 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented a sharp rise in healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), which had been steadily decreasing prior to the pandemic.  

Because of the strain that the pandemic put on the entire healthcare system, central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI), ventilator-associated events (VAE), and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have increased exponentially.

HAIs can often be prevented through careful monitoring and safety protocols overseen by IPC specialists, but only when there are sufficient resources and trained personnel in place to support these efforts.

“For the U.S. to create a safer, more resilient healthcare 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,” said Dickey.

“We need to build capacity so we can surge when we need to,” said APIC CEO, Devin Jopp, EdD, MS. “I won’t sugarcoat it; fortifying our nation’s IPC infrastructure isn’t free, but the cost of ill-preparedness in lives and dollars is incalculable.”

To help healthcare facilities assess their IPC capacity, APIC is launching a new campaign called HAI Fast Forward: Accelerating HAI Prevention. It will include a series of initiatives to help organizations make headway in reducing their HAIs back to pre-pandemic levels.

APIC Release

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