Although many in health care are laser-focused on the prevention of COVID-19, the pandemics’ ramifications have had far-reaching effects on our health care system. Even before the pandemic, our health care system had grave problems. A May 2022 U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services report found that in 2018, more than one in four Medicare patients experienced patient harm. During the pandemic, the quality of care only worsened.

The CDC at one time touted health care-acquired infections as a “Winnable Battle,” but now rates of infections are rising with those from Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus along with ventilator-associated events and central-line–associated bloodstream infections at higher levels than the 2015 baseline. In other words, instead of improving, the risks of harm have increased during the pandemic.

These measurements are risk-adjusted, but even with massaging this data, the pandemic still has placed increased stress on resources, and it is apparent that more needs to be expended to provide the same level of care. The U.S. Congress has allocated pandemic relief funds for this purpose. Unfortunately, it appears many facilities chose to squander this funding, which may have further augmented the risks of harm to patients and health care staff. 

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