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COVID-19 drives new safety programs, but staff, infection problems remain


One-third of health care leaders say organizations are not doing enough.

COVID-19 drives new safety programs, but staff, infection problems remain

After two years of dealing with COVID-19, hospitals and health care systems are creating new programs to improve safety for patients, staff and visitors.

But staff burnout, staff shortages and rates of infection remain problems and 33% of hospital and health care leaders say not enough is being done, according to a new survey.

The findings were part of “A New Era for Hospital Safety: What We’ve Learned from the Pandemic and What Still Needs to Change,” by health care software company VigiLanz.

The company began its annual hospital patient safety report in 2019. This year’s survey had responses from top staff at 100 hospitals and health care systems of various sizes around the country.

Two years into the pandemic, 89% of the health care leaders agreed COVID-19 pandemic exposed safety vulnerabilities in the health facilities, according to the survey.

They largely agreed the pandemic has led to initiatives to improve patient safety (78%), staff safety (77%) and visitor safety (72%).

“While many hospital executives and clinical leaders say their organizations should be doing more to improve safety, the good news is that the problem isn’t being ignored,” the study said.

The health care leaders reported burnout (86%) and shortages (80%) caused significant or moderate declines to patient safety. The findings included 23% of respondents agreeing patient lives were lost due to staff shortages and 21% said patient lives were lost due to burnout.

Infection remains a top concern – COVID-19 made infection prevention a higher priority for 90% of the health care leaders and 68% reported long-term improvements to prevent it.

But just 26% of respondents said they were extremely confident their hospitals could respond to an infectious disease or viral outbreak, down from 44% in 2021. The study described it as a rapid decline, “perhaps due to challenges raised by new strains of COVID-19.”

The pandemic remained a challenge for pharmacies, causing drug shortages for 93% of the health care organizations, the survey said.

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© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health