Critics Slam Updated Infection Control Recommendations for Hospitals

In HealthDay News
by Healthday

Health care workers worry whether the guidelines are protecting a hospital’s bottom line rather than worker health

By Physician’s Briefing Staff HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 3, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Advisors to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to approve new draft guidelines for hospital infection control this week, the first update since 2007.

But health care workers worry whether the guidelines, which suggest that surgical masks are as good as N-95 masks at preventing the spread of respiratory infections during routine care, are protecting a hospital’s bottom line rather than worker health, CNN reported.

The Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee plans to conclude a two-day meeting on the proposed updates on Friday. The new guidelines are not mandatory, but they are often used and agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration tend to base worker safety standards on them.

More than 4,500 physicians died between early 2020 and December 2021, which was 600 more than would have been expected, according to a recent study from researchers at Stanford and the University of Southern California at Los Angeles.

“This is going backward,” David Michaels, M.D., an epidemiologist and professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and the former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, told CNN, noting the guidelines could have benefited from knowledge gained during the pandemic about transmission of respiratory infections.

The evidence the CDC committee is relying on, which finds that surgical masks work as well as N95 masks, is particularly troubling to experts, some say.

“I think what’s happened here is the members of this committee came to us with prejudgment on how infection control should be applied,” said Michaels, who was part of a group of experts that addressed the committee with its concerns in October. “This committee has no members who have expertise in worker protection, or in aerosol science. And so their view of infection control is a hospital-based view and hasn’t changed in decades.”

The committee’s vote will be forwarded to the CDC for approval, though the agency could ask for more review. The guidance may again be revised after a 60-day comment period. Final guidelines are not expected until 2024, CNN reported. 

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