09 June 2009

Infections rise, but hospital budgets - and infection control - shrink

Bad news from the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC): In a survey of almost 2,000 of their 12,000 members, 41% say that their hospitals' infection-prevention budgets have been cut due to the down economy.

According to the survey, conducted March 2009 and released Tuesday morning:
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.
As we know here, there are (by CDC estimate) 1.7 million hospital-acquired infections and 99,000 deaths as a result of them, each year. These are numbers we are supposed to be trying to reduce. That is going to be less likely if less money flows toward what may already be an underfunded goal:
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.
Disturbingly, at a time when electronic health records are such an important part of the health-reform debate, "Only one in five respondents have data-mining programs – electronic surveillance systems that allow infection preventionists to identify and investigate potential infections in real time." (APIC press release)

The full report is here.

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