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Washington bill weakens hospital infection law

February 19, 2013

Washington House & Senate Health Committees Vote
to Roll Back Public Reporting of Hospital Infections
Bills Undermine Efforts to Hold Hospitals Accountable
For Preventing Hospital Acquired Infections

Olympia, WA – The Washington House and Senate Health Committees have both approved bills (HB 1471 / SB 4515) that would undermine state efforts to improve patient safety by eliminating critical public reports on infections that patients get at hospitals from hip and knee replacements and heart surgeries.

By rolling back the state’s hospital infection reporting law, these bills will make it more difficult to hold hospital’s accountable for preventing infections, according to Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports.

“The cost of hospital infections can be immeasurable, including death, permanent disability, loss of ability to work, and years of pain,” said Lisa McGiffert, Director of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project (www.safepatientproject.org). “Public reporting of these infections is a critical part of preventing them. It makes no sense for Washington consumers to lose this valuable law that will provide critical information for their healthcare decisions.”

Supporters of the bills claim that their aim is to bring the state’s hospital infection reporting law into alignment with the voluntary federal Inpatient Quality Reporting Program, but the legislation leaves out three types of infections in the federal program. Most hospitals will report the infections on the federal list because they get financial incentives to do so.

The more serious changes in this bill remove critical surgical procedures from public reports, such as cardiac surgeries, which include coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) procedures, one of the most common surgical procedures done in the United States. The bill also eliminates reports on infections from hip and knee replacements, which are estimated to increase in volume nearly 200 percent and 700 percent over the next 20 years.

“Removing these surgical procedures makes no sense to consumers,” says McGiffert. “Surgeries on hips and knees are exactly the kind of procedures that people do research on – they are typically elective, clean procedures that are scheduled ahead of time and these infections are totally preventable.”

For a copy of Consumers Union’s statement detailing its concerns about HB1471 and SB 4515, see: WA Bills Remove Critical Hospital Infection Reports from the Public View

Contact: Michael McCauley, mmccauley@consumer.org, 415-431-6747, ext 126 or 415-902-9537 (cell) or Lisa McGiffert, lmcgiffert@consumer.org, 512-477-4431, ext 115 or 512-415-5405 (cell)