U.S. hospital finances are so stretched in the current recession, infection prevention efforts have begun to be curtailed.
32% of health facilities say that reductions in staffing and infection prevention (IP) departments have reduced their capacity to deal with IP in their institutions.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control & Epidemiology (APIC) has released the 2009 APIC Economic Survey – The Economic Downturn and Infection Prevention, published in June 2009.

41% of APIC’s polled members reported budget cutbacks for infection prevention in the past 18 months, due to the economic downturn.

Among several areas negatively impacted that touch on IP, a decrease in IP oversight (34%) and surveillance (24%) are cited as specific impacts due to financial cutbacks in budgets. Surveillance involves detecting, tracking and managing healthcare-associated infections.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Healthcare-associated infections cost hospitals and the economy money. Preventing infections not only enhances a hospital’s profitability, they also save costs to payers and promote patient and public health. As private and public payers (Medicare and Medicaid) seek to ratchet down hospital payments, this is not the time to ration infection prevention budgets.

IP is an area of health facilities that’s understaffed and underfinanced. Yet the public health implications for preventing infections, and funding the infrastructure for pandemic preparations, must be squarely faced.

“Spreading knowledge. Preventing infection” is APIC’s tagline. APIC is spreading some important knowledge about the sad state of hospital IP financing with this survey. Whether APIC’s members can get back to the full-time job of preventing infection is an entirely different, and fiscally short-changed, matter.