CDC: Physician offices too lax about infection control

At a minimum, safe injection practices, good hand hygiene, and a trained infection prevention leader should be standard practice at every ambulatory care center, asserts a new set of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) following repeated infectious outbreaks and breaches uncovered from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' inspections.

According to MedPage Today, one investigation at an endoscopy clinic in Nevada showed that clinicians put 40,000 patients at risk for contracting blood-borne viruses by double-dipping needles and reusing single-use vials on multiple patients. At least seven patients contracted hepatitis C on two separate days.

Meanwhile, the St. Petersburg Times reports that a Florida physician is facing possible revocation of her license pending two administrative complaints from the state alleging she failed to institute, monitor, and use acceptable infection control practices at her office, where 11 patients tested positive for hepatitis C in 2009.

While acknowledging that small offices don't have the same resources to devote to infection control as some larger institutions, the CDC noted that they have taken over a greater share of healthcare delivery during the past several decades. The bottom line: All healthcare providers have a responsibility to keep patients safe.

"Patients deserve the same basic levels of protection in a hospital or any other healthcare setting," Michael Bell, deputy director of CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, said in a statement. "Failure to follow standard precautions, such as correct injection practices, cannot be tolerated."

In addition to reiterating many existing CDC guidelines, the document reminds healthcare providers that face masks should be worn not just to protect them from bodily fluids, but also to protect patients when placing a catheter or doing injections into the epidural or subdural spaces. The CDC also emphasized the need for vigilant hand hygiene and attention to frequently contaminated surfaces such as doorknobs.

To learn more:
- read the article from Medpage Today
- access the CDC's Guide to Infection Prevention for Outpatient Settings (.pdf)
- see this article from the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times