New data from a nonprofit hospital safety group show that the average rate of three healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) hit a 5-year high in US hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic and have remained high.
The data from the latest Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, covering late 2021 through 2022, showed that the average standard infection ratios for central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) rose by 60%, 37%, and 19%, respectively, compared with the period immediately before the pandemic. Thirty-two of 50 states saw significant increases in CLABSIs, 18 in MRSA infections, and 11 in CAUTIs.
The data add to the growing body of evidence that the pandemic's impact on hospital staffing and resources has impeded infection prevention and control efforts. Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2021 showed hospitals in 12 states saw significant increases in CLABSIs, CAUTIs, and ventilator-associated events (VAEs) in 2020 compared with 2019. Prior to 2020, rates of HAIs at US hospitals had been declining.
Alarming findings like these indicate hospitals must recommit to patient safety and build more resilience.
"The dramatic spike in HAIs reported in this Safety Grade cycle should stop hospitals in their tracks—infections like these can be life or death for some patients," Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, said in a press release. "We recognize the tremendous strain the pandemic put on hospitals and their workforce, but alarming findings like these indicate hospitals must recommit to patient safety and build more resilience."
In a statement emailed to reporters, Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America President Deborah Yokoe, MD, MPH, said the increases are likely related to overburdened staff and the diversion of infection prevention and antimicrobial stewardship resources to pandemic response.
"Despite the financial challenges that many healthcare facilities currently face, this new data highlights the need for healthcare facilities to invest in the infection prevention and control programs that spearhead this work and to build the system-wide infection prevention infrastructures required to create and sustain improvements over time, even in the face of the next public health crisis," Yokoe said.