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CU: Hospitals need to do more to stop infections

July 7, 2009

Hospital Health Reform Deal: Statement by Consumers Union

Hospitals Need to Do more to Stop Patient Infections

WASHINGTON, D.C. — According to news reports, the hospital industry is expected tomorrow to announce a deal to reduce healthcare spending by nearly $155 billion as part of a national health reform package. Bill Vaughan, policy analyst for Consumers Union, the independent, non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, issued the following statement:
“While the expected pledge by hospitals is a step in the right direction, there is a more important pledge patients and consumers need from our hospitals: stop the preventable deaths of 100,000 people a year from hospital acquired infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the cost of treating these infections is about $35-$45 billion per year. If even half of this spending was avoided, in over ten years we would have more than the amount of money in this deal.
“In their spring letter to the White House pledging savings, the hospital industry said it would do more to fight infection. Today we have no proof that those pledges will result in fewer deaths and injuries. American consumers need to know which hospitals are doing a good job and which are just giving lip service. National health reform should include the public reporting of all hospital infection rates. That is the only way to ensure that the pledges become reality.
“An American dies every 5 minutes from a largely preventable infection acquired in a hospital setting. That is the equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing every other day. If we had those kinds of casualties in airplanes every day, either people wouldn’t fly or we would be working on air safety 24 hours a day.
“Yet each day these preventable deaths and other life-long injuries continue in our hospitals. We know that these infections are largely preventable—but for too many hospitals, it continues to be business as usual. These deaths, injuries, and wasted billions can be almost totally be prevented.
“It’s important that hospitals are pledging to save money, but today they should also pledge to save lives. We need to end infection, publicly report on each institution’s infection rate, and save about $40 billion a year in reduced costs of treating infections”