Physician viewpoint: Hospital-acquired COVID-19 is rampant, but facilities aren't sounding the alarm

Hospitals must adopt rapid, frequent COVID-19 testing for staff to protect patients from hospital-acquired COVID-19, Manoj Jain, MD, an infectious disease consultant for several hospitals in Memphis, Tenn., wrote in a Jan. 21 op-ed published in The Washington Post.

While hospitals are taking strict precautions to prevent the virus's spread, COVID-19 is still common among hospital staff, Dr. Jain wrote. He cited a July 2020 study showing front-line healthcare workers have a four times higher COVID-19 positivity rate than the general public. 

Dr. Jain said the first hospital-acquired COVID-19 case he identified involved a heart failure patient in his 70's who died within 24 hours of developing a fever. He had been hospitalized on the same floor that a few nurses had tested positive for the virus. Since then, Dr. Jain said he's seen five cases of nosocomial COVID-19 in the past four weeks.

"My experience tells me that nosocomial COVID-19 is rampant, and hospitals are not sounding the alarm," he wrote in the op-ed. "Much like other hospital-acquired infections, COVID-19 in the hospital can be prevented, and many vulnerable patients protected."

Dr. Jain said CMS should implement staff testing requirements at hospitals to prevent nosocomial spread of COVID-19.

"Until all healthcare workers across the country are vaccinated, testing of hospital staff needs to be mandatory based on the community spread of infection in their county, and Medicare payments should be withheld if hospitals do not comply," he wrote. 

To view the full op-ed, click here.

More articles on infection control:
New York hospital fires employee for refusing flu shot
Hospitals saw drop in some HAIs last year: 4 CDC findings
Staff meal breaks in the COVID-19 era: How 4 systems are limiting infection risks


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