Welcome to Consumer Reports Advocacy

For 85 years CR has worked for laws and policies that put consumers first. Learn more about CR’s work with policymakers, companies, and consumers to help build a fair and just marketplace at TrustCR.org

CU steps up campaign to curb hospital infections

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Legislation aims to curb deadly hospital acquired infections
SB 1487 would require hospitals to publicly disclose their infection rates

SACRAMENTO, CA – Each year thousands of Californians die from infections they acquire in the hospital and many others suffer needlessly from infection-related illnesses. Under legislation proposed by Senator Jackie Speier, consumers would be able to find out whether their local hospital is doing a good job to minimize infection risks. SB 1487 requires hospitals to report their infection rates to the state so that the results can be made available to the public each year.
“More Californians die each year from preventable hospital acquired infections than from auto accidents and homicides combined,” said Earl Lui, Senior Staff Attorney with Consumers Union’s West Coast Regional Office. “This bill would shine the spotlight on a deadly public health problem and provide hospitals with an added incentive to reduce infections.” The effort to enact SB 1487 is part of Consumers Union’s StopHospitalInfections.org project, which is working enact laws requiring public disclosure of hospital infection rates across the country.
An estimated 90,000 people die each year in the United States from infections contracted in the hospital, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 1.9 million people nationwide who develop such infections endure longer stays in the hospital getting treated. Approximately, five to ten percent of all hospital patients develop infections, which add nearly $5 billion to our nation’s healthcare bill. In California, the Department of Health Services estimates 7,200 to 9,600 deaths occur annually from hospital acquired infections.
Studies show that hospitals can reduce infection rates significantly by proper implementation of infection control practices, especially hand washing. Nonetheless, many hospitals have not effectively implemented infection control practices. According to the National Quality Forum, studies have shown that hand washing compliance rates are generally less than 50 percent. Hospital acquired infections may be an indicator of other systemic problems, such as inadequate staffing, poor care coordination, or lack of timely patient assessments.
Many hospitals track their own infection rates, especially in Intensive Care Units or neonatal wards where infections are common or patients are particularly susceptible. But hospitals are not currently required to report infection rates to any regulatory agency in California.
“Too many Californians suffer needlessly from hospital acquired infections,” said Senator Jackie Speier. “Preventing hospital acquired infections will not only save lives and reduce unnecessary illness, but it will also save healthcare dollars by limiting lengths of stay and readmissions.”
SB 1487 requires hospitals to collect hospital-acquired infection data and to report it quarterly to the Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development (OSHPD). Under the bill, OSHPD would share the data with the Department of Health Services (DHS), which would use it in conjunction with its hospital inspection and licensing duties. The bill requires OSHPD to publish an annual report on its website comparing the infection rates of all acute care hospitals in the state. Infection rates for the most common types of hospital-acquired infections would be collected. These categories are: infections following surgeries, pneumonia, bloodstream infections, urinary tract infections, and other infections. DHS would also receive copies of the reports for use in inspection and enforcement.
Several states have established mandatory data collection systems that make hospital-specific quality of care data available to the public. In 2003, Illinois enacted a law requiring public reporting of hospital acquired infection rates to a state agency. States that have set up public data collection and reporting systems have experienced improved quality of care as a result.
“Public reporting of hospital-acquired infection data will give hospitals a much stronger incentive to reduce the rate of infections and allow them to see how they compare to other hospitals in the state,” said Beth Capell, Health Advocate for SEIU State Council. “And it will help consumers make more informed choices so they can protect themselves and their families when they need to turn to a hospital for healthcare.”
Consumers Union’s StopHospitalInfections.org project is working to enact public disclosure laws so that consumers can select the safest hospitals and competition among hospitals will force the worst to improve. More information about hospital acquired infections and Consumers Union’s campaign can be found at: www.StopHospitalInfections.org.
For more information contact: Earl Lui – 415-431-6747 or Beth Capell – 916-497-0760