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CU urges Governor Schwarzenegger to veto weak hospital infection bill


Monday, September 11, 2006

Consumers Union Urges Governor Schwarzenegger
to Veto Weak Hospital Infection Bill

SACRAMENTO, CA – Consumers Union called on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today to veto legislation approved by state lawmakers that purports to address hospital infections, but fails to provide any meaningful new protection for patients. The bill is far weaker than laws adopted in 14 other states that require hospitals to disclose patient infection rates to the public in order to spur improvements in care.
“SB 739 is a do-nothing bill that leaves patients vulnerable to the danger of hospital-acquired infections,” said Lisa McGiffert, Director of Consumers Union’s Stop Hospital Infections campaign. “California often leads the nation on reform efforts, but this bill puts it far behind the pack. Governor Schwarzenegger should veto this legislation and call for stronger reforms. This problem will not be resolved by appeasing hospitals with meaningless mandates that do nothing more than maintain the status quo on infection control.”
Hospital-acquired infections kill 90,000 Americans every year. One in 20 Californians will get an infection while hospitalized according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These mostly preventable infections cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars each year in Medi-Cal and CALPERS must pay for their treatment.
SB 739 merely requires hospitals to have policies in place to prevent infections. Most hospitals already have infection control policies, but they don’t consistently follow them. For example, hospitals require doctors and nurses to clean their hands between patients, yet research has repeatedly shown that appropriate hand hygiene is followed just 50 percent of the time.
Supporters of SB 739 claim that the Department of Health Services will check to see that the hospital policies are being followed. However, the department is limited to doing so during its routine surveys, which occur only once every three years. Further, this authority will not begin until Jan. 1, 2009.
Consumers Union launched a national campaign for public disclosure of hospital-acquired infection rates in 2003. Since then, 15 states have passed laws to provide consumers with this important patient safety information.
SB 739 requires selective public reporting on only a portion of the measures listed in the CDC Guidance to Public Reporting issued in February, 2005. The bill completely disregards the agency’s suggestion to include two outcome measures: rates of central-line-associated blood stream infections in the ICU and rates of surgical site infections following selected operations. Even the limited public reporting provided under this bill will be done at some unspecified time, on or AFTER Jan. 1, 2008.
“SB 739 fails to hold hospitals accountable for implementing effective infection control programs and keeping patient safe,” said McGiffert. “Public reporting of infection rates is critical because it tells the public which hospitals are most effectively controlling infections and gives hospitals a much stronger incentive to do all they can to improve patient care.”
Last year, Consumers Union previously supported SB 1487 (Speier) — a strong bill that required public reporting of hospital infection rates. That bill was sent to Gov. Schwarzenegger by the Legislature; regrettably, the governor vetoed it.
Lisa McGiffert: 512-477-4431, ext 115
Michael McCauley: 415-431-6747, ext. 126

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