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California issues reports on hospital infections

December 30, 2010

California Issues Reports on Hospital-Acquired Infections

Reports Provide First Glimpse at Hospital Infection Rates But State Needs
to Worker Harder to Ensure Accurate & Consumer-Friendly Reporting

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today issued its first reports detailing patient infection rates at hospitals across the state. The reports are being issued as a result of “Niles Law,” a 2008 state law that aims to encourage hospitals to improve efforts to prevent infections by publicly disclosing each hospital’s track record. Nile Moss died of a hospital acquired MRSA infection at the age of 15 and his mother, Carole Moss, worked to pass and implement the law.
While the reports offer an important first look at hospital infection rates, the state needs to ensure that all hospitals are reporting accurate data and that the information is disclosed in a more consumer-friendly format, according to Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.
“Too many Californians suffer each year from infections they pick up in the hospital and far too many lose their lives because of poor infection control practices,” said Lisa McGiffert, Director of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project (www.SafePatientProject.org). “These reports will help Californians begin to understand which hospitals are protecting patients from preventable infections and which are not. But it’s clear that the state needs to work harder to make sure that all hospitals are providing complete and accurate infection data and that this information is presented in a format that the public can more easily understand.”
According to the Department, only 67 percent of hospitals in California reported all of the infections required by state law. These include bloodstream infections associated with a central line and those caused by the superbugs MRSA and VRE, and infections caused by the C. difficile bacterium. Nineteen hospitals failed to report any data. A separate report on C. difficile infections was issued.
State officials have repeatedly complained about the quality of infection data submitted by many California hospitals for these first reports. CDPH indicates it did not review or correct errors as the data were submitted. However, in August of this year, the Department asked hospitals to verify their data; some corrections were made based on hospitals responses, but not all responded. Verification of the accuracy of hospital infection data is essential for public reports and is the responsibility of the Department and each hospital.
Due to the method of data collection for these reports, the Department discouraged comparisons to national average infection rates. The reports show similar hospitals grouped together as a method to adjust for the differences in patient populations.
“Consumers can see how their hospital compares to its peers in the state, but ultimately hospitals should be aiming for zero infections,” said McGiffert. “and that should be the benchmark for consumers to use to measure their hospital’s performance.”
Lisa McGiffert 512-477-4431 ext 115, lmcgiffert@consumer.org or Michael McCauley – 415-431-6747, mccami@consumer.org