Viewpoint: US hospital infection control practices aren't good enough to combat coronavirus

Gabrielle Masson - Print  | 

U.S. hospitals don't practice proper infection control practices and are ill-equipped to handle the new coronavirus or a future global contagion, according to an editorial by politician Betsy McCaughey published in The Wall Street Journal.

Public safety depends on the steps hospitals take to prevent infections, Ms. McCaughey wrote. Previously, infection control standards at Canadian hospitals failed to contain the SARS outbreak, Ms. McCaughey claimed. In 2003, 77 percent of people infected with SARS in Ontario contracted it at a hospital and another 17 percent got it at home, often from a healthcare worker who lived with them. Ms. McCaughey said most U.S. hospitals currently have the same inadequate infection control practices.

The editorial piece cites a June 2017 literature review of U.S. emergency rooms that found contaminated equipment use, failure to use shields to protect healthcare workers intubating patients and failure to ask coughing patients to wear masks. She also references a study conducted by the CDC at ERs in 49 New York City hospitals that found "suboptimal adherence to key infection control practices."

Ms. McCaughey admits that hospital precautions have improved in response to recent global health threats. However, with more than 70,000 patients nationwide dying each year from hospital-acquired infections, she concludes that hospitals must improve infection control, especially in light of the new coronavirus. 

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