Hospitals may be unable to sustain preparedness for infectious disease outbreaks

Since the Ebola outbreak of 2014, hospitals in the U.S. have drastically improved their ability to deal with emerging infectious diseases, according to a report from HHS' Office of Inspector General. However, most hospitals voiced concerns about maintaining this level of preparedness.

In 2014, 71 percent of hospitals said they were unprepared to receive Ebola patients. Since then, hospitals have updated their emergency plans, trained staff, bought supplies and practiced drills in case of an outbreak. This brought down the proportion of hospitals unprepared for an outbreak like Ebola to 14 percent in 2017, according to the report.

However, most hospital administrators — 95 percent — say other priorities reduce their ability to focus on emerging infectious diseases when there is no current threat. "Administrators noted that a focus on any particular threat inherently took time away from other efforts, and that hospitals had to prioritize problems as they emerged," the report states. Administrators named competing threats such as active shooter preparation, natural disaster preparation and everyday infection prevention.

Administrators ranked their top challenges to sustaining preparedness:

  • Staff time — 90 percent
  • Sustaining staff competency — 87 percent
  • Competing priorities for resources — 82 percent
  • Finding time to conduct drills and exercises — 81 percent
  • Maintaining equipment and supplies — 73 percent
  • Government guidance was conflicting or impractical — 72 percent

Read the full OIG report here.

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