Research presented at the 44th Annual Conference of the Association for Professional in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) lay bare the significant gaps that exist in efforts to protect the 1.4 million Americans who reside in one of the nation’s 15,654 nursing homes from healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Nursing-home residents are especially vulnerable to HAIs because “they often have multiple, chronic diseases, transfer frequently between the hospital and the long-term care setting, and are overexposed to antibiotics, all of which place them at higher risk for developing infections with antibiotic-resistant organisms,” Linda Greene, RN, MPS, CIC, FAPIC, 2017 APIC president, told conference attendees.
The issue is receiving attention in the mainstream media. In May, a report in The Wall Street Journal noted, “There’s a bug problem in some nursing homes, and it’s not what you think.” In the article, writer Lucette Lagnado cited a report in the Federal Register by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that stated, “among residents of long-term care (LTC) facilities, there are between 1.6 million and 3.8 million cases of infection annually, resulting in 388,000 deaths.”
The research unveiled at APIC 2017 noted that LTC facilities continue to lack the resources, including qualified personnel, necessary to implement adequate infection control programs. "The findings presented here are concerning and should prompt immediate efforts to increase education and support for infection prevention programs in all types long-term care facilities," Green said.
Last September, CMS issued new policies targeted at reducing unnecessary hospital readmissions and infections, improving the quality of care, and strengthening safety measures for residents in LTC facilities. These policies include requiring all LTC facilities to strengthen their infection prevention and control programs. The CMS “2016/2017 Nursing Home Action Plan” notes, “HAIs are largely preventable” and due to multiple factors, including “staff without the appropriate training or time to prevent infections early.”
Also last September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a new tool to help LTC facilities to determine their infection prevention proficiency. The tool has an entire section devoted to environmental cleaning issues, including that “appropriate personnel receive (ongoing) job-specific training and competency validation on cleaning and disinfection procedures.”
UMF Corporation’s Hygiene Specialist In-Service Training program for Environmental Services (ES) staff in hospitals and LTC facilities includes learning best practices for effective infection prevention, in-service education and effective hygiene management in patient rooms. In fact, our 2014 Hygiene Specialist® Excellence Award was given to a member of the ES team at Heartland Healthcare Center - Oakland in Troy, MI, which is part of HCR ManorCare. Toledo, OH-based HCR ManorCare is a leading provider of short-term, post-acute services and long-term care.
Kudos to leading LTC facilities like those that compose the HCR ManorCare provider system, where they’ve already recognized the important contributions of ES as the first line of defense in beating back the challenges posed by HAIs. If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to join the infection prevention efforts finding their way into nursing homes.