Bill would require hospitals to release infection statistics to public

Posted: Monday, January 16, 2006


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  David Gilbreath, CEO Central Peninsula General Hospital

Majority Leader Gary Stevens

Alaska hospitals would be required to release information about cases of infection acquired by patients during hospital stays under a bill proposed by Senate Majority Leader Gary Stevens.

“A good friend of mine was in the hospital last year for a simple operation and wound up with an infection that put him close to death,” the Republican from Kodiak said in an interview Tuesday. “I started looking into the facts.”

Stevens said he learned that some 2 million infections a year are acquired in hospitals and that an estimated 90,000 people die annually as a result.

“It’s the sixth-leading cause of death in the country,” he said. “That’s shocking to realize, but it is something that is correctable.”

Nationally, it is estimated that hospital-acquired infections, called nosocomial infections, cost consumers $4.5 billion to $11 billion a year. At least a third are considered preventable, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


David Gilbreath, CEO Central Peninsula General Hospital

Reducing the rates of in-hospital infections would take greater vigilance by hospitals and by their often-overworked doctors and staff, Stevens said.

“It may often be as simple as washing hands between patients” or “making sure patients are getting the right antibiotics before incisions,” he said.

Senate Bill 208 would require hospitals to collect data about hospital-acquired infection rates for surgical site infections, ventilator-associated pneumonia, central line-related bloodstream infections, urinary tract infections and other categories of infections as adopted by the Department of Health and Social Services by regulation. (See sidebar, this page) If passed, SB 208’s provisions would go into effect July 1, 2007.

His motivation, Stevens said, was a belief that the medical services-buying public has a right to know a facility’s in-hospital infection rate.

“Consumers should have full knowledge about what places to try to avoid,” he said.

He also said introduction of the bill was not meant to cast aspersions or threaten Alaska hospitals.

“It is nothing about hospitals in the areas I represent,” he said, adding that he’d spoken with representatives of one facility who agreed public disclosure of infection rates was a good idea.

The bill would require hospitals to collect infection data and prepare quarterly disclosure reports for the public. Those reports would be written in a way that would not disclose confidential patient information nor identify persons involved in an incident of infection. Quarterly reports would have to be posted at the hospital and available on request.

David Gilbreath, director of Central Peninsula General Hospital, said he as always been supportive of releasing such information to the public.

“The data is available and not at all a headache to report,” he said.

CPGH has joined the 100,000 Lives Campaign sponsored by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement that is promoting specific measures to cut hospital deaths nationwide, including those caused by nosocomial infections. Some 3,000 hospitals have joined the effort. Dr. Todd Boling, a general surgeon and chief of the medical staff, who assumed his position in July 2005, is heading the campaign at CPGH, Gilbreath said.

“We don’t know what the impact is going to be, but we have team members, including physicians, looking at the campaign components (the types of infections). We have made adjustments and our infection rate is extremely low,” Gilbreath said.

Ken Simmons, CPGH’s infection control officer, said that in 2002, the hospital recorded roughly 3.6 hospital-acquired infections per 1,000 patient days. That figure has fallen each year since, and while all the data is not yet in for 2005, it appears the hospital will achieve a rate of better than the 2.9 per 1,0000 patient days registered in 2004, Simmons said.

He noted that it would be important if the law passes that every hospital report the data the same way so consumers could accurately compare facilities.

South Peninsula Hospital Administrator Charlie Franz said he, too, would have no problem making such information available, saying he is trying to make the hospital’s activities “as transparent as possible.”

SPH has not, so far, joined the IHI campaign, Franz said, but the staff has begun to implement portions of the program and phasing into the campaign is under consideration.

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