Government reports have illuminated the ‘astounding’ lack of attention to infection prevention.
The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology has sent a letter to Congress encouraging mandatory infection prevention staff in nursing homes.
In the letter, the organization emphasizes the “astounding” lack of attention given to infection control in the nation's nursing homes. It also references multiple government reports that have highlighted the results of the lack of attention.
In 2019, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, one-third of deaths were associated with nursing homes. In 2022, a White House fact sheet found that many nursing homes are still providing "sub-standard" care leading to avoidable harm coming to residents.
The time for better infection prevention and control efforts is "long overdue," Devin Jopp, EdD, CEO of APIC, said in a statement.
"We urge the Biden Administration and Congress to ensure that residents of these facilities receive at least the level of protection from deadly infections as they would in the hospital," he said.
APIC included actionable recommendations in its letter, including employing at least one full-time infection preventionist on staff whose sole responsibility is infection prevention. Relying on a director or staff member who has little background or training in infection control and prevention is ineffective, the organization noted.
Another recommendation called for the adequate funding of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Surveyor workforce, along with the proper training for the surveyors themselves.
Lastly, the APIC recommended long-term care facilities use the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) healthcare associated infection tracking system, the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN), to continue to report infection data to build on reporting requirements. Prior to the pandemic, nursing home data was submitted voluntarily.
"While having the appropriate level of nurses is important in nursing homes, that alone is not enough to keep patients safe from harm," Patricia Jackson, RN, MA, CIC, FAPIC, APIC president, said in a statement.
"These facilities must be required to have at least one full-time, dedicated infection preventionist to ensure they have the necessary protections and safeguards in place to keep our loved ones safe from preventable infections and other emerging infectious diseases."
“While having the appropriate level of nurses is important in nursing homes, that alone is not enough to keep patients safe from harm.”
Patricia Jackson, RN, MA, CIC, FAPIC, APIC president
Jasmyne Ray is the revenue cycle editor at HealthLeaders.
The APIC is asking Congress and the Biden administration to take action to address infection prevention and protect seniors.
Increased attention to infection prevention will increase safety in nursing homes.
One recommendation is that facilities have at least one full-time infection preventionist on staff.