Buffy Lloyd-Krejci’s infectious disease consulting company couldn’t have come at a more opportune, or critical, time.
The mother of five, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, started IPCWell, an infection prevention consulting firm, right before the coronavirus outbreak hit the United States. Lloyd-Krejci, who holds degrees in applied mathematics and biomedical informatics, has 20 years of experience in developing and implementing public health projects in a range of healthcare facilities, but she decided to focus her business mostly on nursing homes.
“I saw that there weren’t enough resources being allocated for nursing homes, and really felt the call to step out and do this work,” she said. “I couldn’t believe the number of people who were suffering from infections that could potentially be prevented, and even more I wanted to equip [infection preventionists] and empower them to do their job and not be afraid.”
Her words sound prophetic now.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are as many as 380,000 deaths every year in nursing homes due to serious infections.
And according to a March 21 Washington Post article, there have been more than 50 coronavirus-related deaths in elderly care facilities — representing a quarter of all fatalities — and that number is certainly going to increase.
In 2017, the federal government mandated that nursing homes have an infection control program, and just last year they were required to have an infection preventionist on staff at least part time. Preventing and controlling infectious diseases has become a national priority, Lloyd-Krejci said — but is it too little, too late?
“I was just in a facility last week, and immediately, there were zero hand sanitizers in the halls outside of the resident rooms as well as inside the resident rooms,” she said. “I said, ‘We’re in a pandemic.’”
She added, “When you’re in a crisis situation, things need to be hardwired into your routine. If it’s not, you’re not going to do it.”
In October 2019, Lloyd-Krejci joined the Arizona chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and won a scholarship to participate in a mentoring program. The first-time entrepreneur already had the science and data analytics part down; the program helped her with the marketing, communications and finance aspects of launching her business.
Now, when she goes into facilities, she does “deep dive assessments,” making sure that medical specialists are using hand sanitizer, following environmental laundry and food safety protocols, and are properly putting on and removing equipment without contaminating themselves.
“A lot of it is best practices — it’s not rocket science — but the biggest challenge is you have staff who are overworked, they may wear several hats, they’re taking care of multiple patients, and it’s just not a practice they’re used to,” Lloyd-Krejci said.
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“Another thing is we don’t see the viruses, we can’t see when we’re cross-contaminating with the same toilet bowl brush or when we’re not changing our gloves,” she added. “So up until this pandemic — and probably one of my biggest pain points — is infection control is not a priority.”
Priorities have quickly changed. Lloyd-Krejci is currently contracted to work with more than 15 facilities, which also includes acute pain and outpatient care centers, and just in the last few weeks she has received four new nursing home clients.
They are mostly in Arizona, but she also has clients in Ohio, Utah, Idaho and Indiana, and she hosts national webinars. She has a small support and marketing staff, and for now, she is the only one who does the assessments because she is the only one she trusts to go into the facilities.
“If they have a question about, ‘Should we test somebody?’ or ‘What isolation should we put somebody in?’ They know they can call me or text me,” she said. “They know I care, and they know I have their back.”
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