PPE Use, Absenteeism Escalates in a Pandemic, Study Says

Canadian researchers advise hospitals to stock up on critical pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and respirators in anticipation of a potential pandemic. In advance of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, they point to the variation in what was known about the impact that an influenza pandemic might have on stockpiles of facial protective equipment (FPE) as well as on employees' ability to cope with pandemic situations.

Murray, et al. (2010) sought to describe the impact of H1N1 on FPE use and hospital employee absenteeism and conducted their study in a tertiary-care hospital and several community hospitals in Vancouver, Canada. They studied all individuals with influenza-like illness admitted to the three facilities from June 28, 2009 through Dec. 19, 2009 and recorded prospectively data on FPE use. Their research was published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

The researchers report that 865 patients with influenza-like illness were admitted to the facilities participating in the study, and of these patients, 149 (17.2 percent) had laboratory-confirmed H1N1 influenza infection. The average duration of hospital stay for these patients was 8.9 days, and the average duration of ICU stay was 9.2 days. Murray, et al. (2010) report that 134,281 masks and 173,145 N95 respirators were used during the 24-week epidemic, double the weekly use of both items, compared with the previous influenza season. A ratio of three masks to four respirators was observed, and use of disposable eyewear doubled. The researchers say that healthcare facility absenteeism mirrored the community epidemiologic curve, with a 260 percent increase in employee sick calls at the epidemic peak.

Reference: Murray M, Grant J, Bryce E, Chilton P and Forrester L. Facial Protective Equipment, Personnel, and Pandemics: Impact of the Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 Virus on Personnel and Use of Facial Protective Equipment. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. September 2010.

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