Hospitals Prepared for Ebola?

According to a survey conducted by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Michael Weilert MD EbolaEpidemiology (APIC), only 6 percent of US hospitals said that they were sufficiently prepared to handle Ebola patients.  5 percent of the hospitals said that they weren’t at all prepared.  The remaining 89 percent of hospitals ranged somewhere between the two, with the majority of them saying that they were “somewhat prepared”.

According to the survey, around 51 percent of hospitals only had one or less than one full-time professionals on staff who were capable to identify sources of infections and limit their transmission in healthcare facilities.  Among those hospitals with 1 or fewer infection preventionists on staff, only 4 percent felt well-prepared to receive Ebola patients, compared to 31 percent who had 11 or more infection preventionists on staff.  Facilities that aren’t properly staffed to begin with are stretched extremely thin during health crises such as the current Ebola situation, distracting hospitals from other potential health problems.

The current Ebola outbreak reveals the the need for properly trained, staffed and resourced infection control departments.  The unique skill of “infection preventionist” is now in extremely high demand, and is essential to prevent future public health issues from escalating into major crises.  According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 1 in 25 Americans get healthcare-associated infections, and nearly 75,000 people die each year from such infections.  While such infections cost the American healthcare system over $30 billion each year, many of them can be prevented with nothing more than proper infection prevention practices.

In light of the survey, APIC is calling on healthcare facilities to assess their infection prevention programs by taking a look at all of the care and services provided by the institution and determining the appropriate level of personnel and resources needed for the current medical situation.  They’re urging facilities to focus their attention on three aspects of infection prevention in order to effectively protect healthcare workers, patients and the public: improved technology and equipment, well-prepared personnel and effective training.