10 infection control upgrades needed before next pandemic

The U.S. needs to bolster its infection prevention and control infrastructure to prepare for future pandemics and the rise of healthcare-associated infections, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology said in a March 8 report.

Hospital infection prevention programs — already "underfunded and understaffed" before the pandemic hit — now have insufficient capacity to prevent HAIs, the organization said.

In the 66-page report, APIC shares 10 recommendations for policymakers to expand the infection prevention and control workforce, improve prevention programs and build resiliency for future pandemics. 

1. Develop universal personal protective equipment. APIC said Congress should fund efforts to develop an off-the-shelf, one-size-fits all respiratory device that could be used in healthcare settings during infectious disease emergencies.

2. Normalize the use of masks amid infectious disease threats. Local, state and federal lawmakers should recommend the use of masks to the public. Federal agencies should also conduct more research into masks' effectiveness against different types of infectious diseases and share their findings with the public to build trust, the organization said. 

3. Address supply chain failures. The federal government should develop better processes to manage, track and quickly supply PPE during times of crisis and work to better anticipate periods of high demand. 

4. Require healthcare facilities to include infection control experts on emergency response teams. CMS should mandate that infection preventionists serve on healthcare facility incident command and emergency preparedness teams and be consulted for all policies that affect disease transmission, including patient placement, PPE use and ventilation issues. 

5. Require nursing homes, long-term facilities and other high-risk settings to staff at least one full-time infection preventionist. CMS should require each facility to have such an expert on staff and that other nursing home staff undergo infection prevention and control training to reinforce this work. CMS should also require that routine mandatory HAI surveillance be expanded in nursing homes. 

6. Build and implement infection prevention and control surge capacity. Congress should provide healthcare facilities with funding to increase this capacity to ensure continued safe care throughout the pandemic and ensure that facilities have enough front-line infection preventionists available for future infectious disease emergencies, APIC said.

7. Boost capacity for testing and contact tracing. Congress should ensure all relevant stakeholders have adequate access to testing, and fund public health agencies' and healthcare facilities' contact tracing efforts to control disease spread during a pandemic. 

8. Ensure rapid infection surveillance data sharing and interoperability. Congress should invest in technology solutions that allow for rapid data collection and facilitate sharing between healthcare facilities, public health agencies, federal agencies and the public. 

9. Build vaccine confidence. The federal government should devote resources to ongoing public health education about the benefits of vaccines for infectious diseases. 

10. Fund pandemic preparedness workforce capacity and training. Congress should provide funds for healthcare facilities to increase their infection prevention and control workforce, and fund widespread training for all staff members during a pandemic. It should also fund incentives for universities to launch or expand infection preventionist training programs to increase the pipeline of experts entering the workforce. 

View the full report here.

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