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Lawmakers in California approve hospital infection reporting bill

Thursday, August 26, 2004

California lawmakers approve bill aimed at curbing deadly hospital acquired infections
Bill requiring hospitals to publicly disclose their infection rates sent to Governor

SACRAMENTO, CA – California lawmakers have approved legislation (SB 1487) introduced by Senator Jackie Speier to require hospitals to publicly disclose the rate at which their patients acquire infections during treatment. Each year thousands of Californians die from infections they pick up in the hospital and many others suffer needlessly from infection-related illnesses. Now it’s up to Governor Schwarzenegger to decide whether to sign the bill and make California the latest state to require hospitals to disclose their infection rates to the public.
“The quickest route to reducing hospital-infection rates is to make this information public,” said Senator Speier. “For hospitals there is no greater incentive than the need to respond to informed consumers demanding the quality of care they deserve.”
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 and recovering from infection-related illnesses. 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. California spends untold millions of dollars each year to cover hospital infection-related treatment for those who depend on state and local government-sponsored healthcare programs.
“On average, as many as 26 Californians die from infections they acquire in the hospital every day,” said Earl Lui, Senior Staff Attorney with Consumers Union’s West Coast Office. “More people die from hospital infections in California than from auto accidents and homicides combined.”
Studies show that hospitals can reduce infection rates significantly by proper implementation of infection control practices, especially hand washing. Nonetheless, many hospitals have not done so. According to the National Quality Forum, studies show that hand washing compliance rates are generally less than 50 percent.
Many hospitals track their own infection rates, but they are not currently required to report this information to any regulatory agency in California. They cannot compare their performance to other area hospitals and patients have no way of knowing if their hospital is doing a good job minimizing infection risks.
Hospitals are required to report information about each patient that is discharged to the Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development (OSHPD). SB 1487 would require that they also report the rate at which their patients develop infections during treatment and mandates that the agency disclose this information to the public. Similar hospital infection reporting requirements recently have been adopted in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Florida.
Several states have established mandatory hospital reporting requirements for such things as the outcome of heart surgeries, which has helped to improve the quality of care that patients receive. Likewise, public reporting of hospital-acquired infection data will give hospitals a much stronger incentive to reduce the rate of infections.
“Reducing hospital infections will save healthcare dollars by reducing patients’ length of stay and readmissions as well as reducing avoidable deaths and illnesses,” said Beth Capell, Health Advocate for SEIU State Council. “For a state like California, which is grappling with tight budgets and the high cost of healthcare, getting hospital infections under control should be a top priority.”
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 – 415-601-6747 (cell) or 415-431-6747, Michael McCauley – 415-431-6747, Beth Capell – 916-497-0760