Infection prevention and control during the COVID-19 pandemic: challenges and opportunities for Kenyan public hospitals
Background: Infection prevention and control, and water sanitation and hygiene have an essential role in ensuring the quality of care and patient outcomes in hospitals. Using a modification of the World Health Organization's water sanitation and hygiene facility improvement tool, we undertook assessments in 14 public hospitals in Kenya in 2018. The hospitals received written feedback on areas where they could make improvements. Following the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kenya, we were drawn to ask whether the results of our pre-pandemic survey had led to action, and whether or not the threat of COVID-19 had focused more attention on infection prevention and control and water sanitation and hygiene. Methods: Using a semi-structured interview guide, we carried out phone interviews with key hospital leaders in 11 of the 14 hospitals. The data were transcribed and coded into thematic areas. We draw on these interviews to describe the status and awareness of infection prevention and control. Results: The infection prevention and control committee members are training health workers on infection prevention and control procedures and proper use of personal protective equipment and in addition, providing technical support to hospital managers. While some hospitals have also accessed additional funds to improve infection prevention and control, they tended to be small amounts of money. Long-standing challenges with supplies of infection prevention and control materials and low staff morale persist. Crucially, the reduced supply of personal protective equipment has led to fear and anxiety among health care personnel. Conclusions: As funds are mobilised to support care for COVID-19, we ask that funds prioritise infection prevention and control measures. This would have a profoundly positive effect on within hospital virus transmission, patient and staff safety but also lasting benefits beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.