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Hospitals need to do more to prevent patient infections

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

National Patient Safety Campaign Making Progress, But Hospitals
Should Redouble Efforts to Keep Infection Risks Low

Statement of Lisa McGiffert, Stop Hospital Infections Campaign Director

“We applaud the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) for making steady progress over the past year to encourage hospitals to adopt practices proven to save patient lives. The 3,000 hospitals participating in IHI’s 100,000 Lives Campaign deserve credit for pledging to improve patient care, including those that adopted procedures to reduce the risk of infections.
However, much more work needs to be done to reduce the estimated 90,000 deaths that occur each year as a result of hospital acquired infections. It is simply inexcusable that two million people suffer from infections they pick up at hospitals every year, most of which could be prevented if there was strict adherence to proven infection control procedures. There should be zero tolerance for patient infections because these are human lives at stake not just numbers.
Even though 3,000 hospitals have volunteered to participate in IHI’s campaign, not all have made the commitment to follow the infection reduction practices advocated by the group. Approximately 2,000 U.S. hospitals are not participating in the campaign at all. More lives could be saved if all U.S. hospitals followed the IHI identified practices proven to prevent surgical and central line infections, and ventilator associated pneumonia.
But there’s a lot more that hospitals could do to minimize infection risks and prevent needless patient suffering. A good place to start would be making sure that doctors and nurses clean their hands between every patient. Studies show that hand washing compliance rates are generally less than 50 percent. How can patients have any confidence in the care they receive when basic hand hygiene is neglected so often? Hospitals also should step up their efforts to reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections by using proven methods of screening incoming patients and isolating those with superbugs from other patients.
Ultimately, efforts such as IHI’s must disclose hospital-specific results. The public deserves to be informed about the results each participating hospital is achieving – simply put, the extent to which infections are actually reduced. Last February, IHI named 14 hospitals that reported zero infections associated with ventilator treatment after following the IHI infection prevention practices. Revealing the outcomes for all participants will provide the strongest incentive for hospitals to do more.”
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Lisa McGiffert 512-477-4431 ext 115 and Suzanne Henry 512-477-4431 ext 121