Less than two years ago, a deadly bacteria made its way through the facility. Three babies in the neonatal intensive care unit got infected and died. Government inspectors cited the hospital for being short of staff; failing to maintain a sanitary environment, including improper hand hygiene and sterilization; and inadequately isolating patients with respiratory conditions. They determined the hospital had put patients in “immediate jeopardy.”
But infection control has been a recurring problem at some of the very hospitals that would likely be called upon to treat COVID-19 patients, a ProPublica review of hundreds of hospital inspection reports found. This raises concerns that they could become hotbeds for disease, putting patients at risk and rendering infected workers unable to care for others.
“Health care workers are my top worry,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He noted that in China, so far, about 15% of infected hospital workers have become severely ill. “If this takes place in the U.S., and we see those numbers of workers sent home or in the ICU, being taken care of by their colleagues, things will start to unravel. This is the soft underbelly of our preparedness system right now.”