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Victor Post
  • Hospital infections dip in the Finger Lakes region

  • Kevin Dougherty never thought when he and his wife, Susan, entered a hospital in Rochester in 1997 for the scheduled cesarean birth of their daughter, Shannon, that Susan would not come home.

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  • Kevin Dougherty never thought when he and his wife, Susan, entered a hospital in Rochester in 1997 for the scheduled cesarean birth of their daughter, Shannon, that Susan would not come home.
    Susan “acquired an infection during the C-section,” said Dougherty of the devastating experience of his wife’s sudden illness after giving birth and her death within days of necrotizing fasciitis, commonly called “flesh-eating bacteria.”
    “Our lives have never been the same since.”
    While such tragedies are uncommon, hospital-acquired infections overall are a concern and something government and medical experts continue to work on eliminating.
    On Wednesday, a report from the Rochester region’s largest health insurer showed hospitals in upstate New York have been more successful than facilities statewide as a whole in lowering rates of two commonly reported hospital-acquired infections.
    The detailed analysis of four years of patient infection data issued by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield shows, among other findings, that the Finger Lakes region in 2011 had the lowest surgical site infection rate in upstate.
    “Hospital-acquired infections are serious but avoidable public health problems that reduce a patient’s ability to heal, causing suffering, extended hospital stays, expensive treatments and even death,” stated Dr. Martin Lustick, senior vice president and corporate medical director for Excellus BCBS.
    New York state began tracking and reporting hospital-specific rates of surgical site infections and central line-associated bloodstream infections in 2007. (Central line-associated bloodstream infections can occur when microorganisms such as bacteria or fungi travel around or through the central-line tube, attach and multiply on the tubing or in fluid administered to the patient through the tubing). Excellus BCBS’s analysis of the reports finds that each year between 2008 and 2011, upstate New York hospitals had lower rates of these two, common types of hospital-acquired infections, than New York state hospitals.
    In the Finger Lakes region, the surgical site infection rate in 2011 was 1.49 per 100 procedures, down nearly 33 percent from 2008.
    The central line-associated infection rate in 2011 was 1.06 per 1,000 days, down nearly 65 percent from 2008.
    “We have seen our infection rates go down in recent years,” said Gloria Karr, director of Infection Prevention/Emergency Preparedness at Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua. Before coming to Thompson, Karr said she worked for a large health system in Buffalo. One of the reasons she chose to work at Thompson three years ago was its attention to cleanliness, she said.
    “I walked in and saw how clean it is," Karr said. "It is probably the cleanest hospital I have ever been in.”
    To illustrate, she recalled one patient questioning if something was wrong because hospital staff was so attentive to cleaning his room.
    Page 2 of 2 - Thompson is focused as well on targeting the different types of infections, said Karr. From educational programs for staff to task forces for developing methods and strategies, efforts are aggressive and ongoing to drive infection rates even lower, she said.
    “There is a lot of collaboration,” she added, which involves incorporating information, observations and expertise of employees at all levels in the organization.
    If upstate New York hospitals could lower the number of hospital-acquired infections by even 20 or 40 percent, there would be 5,000 to 10,000 fewer infections and 200 to 400 associated deaths, according to the Excellus BCBS report. That would also annually save upstate New York hospitals between $68 million and $137 million.
    In a release, Excellus said efforts continue at federal, state and local levels to eliminate hospital-acquired infections. One strong motivating force behind reducing such infections is the Medicare payment penalty, Excellus said. The federal government levies financial penalties against hospitals that have what it deems as too many hospital re-admissions.
    In addition, the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $40 million to help state health departments fight hospital-acquired infections, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 improved the ability of states to measure, report and prevent such infections.
    Excellus said a collaboration between the federal government and 26 Hospital Engagement Networks, including The Healthcare Association of New York State and the Greater New York Hospital Association, targets a 40 percent reduction in hospital-acquired infection rates by the end of 2013.
    To view the complete report, “The Facts About Hospital-Acquired Infections in Upstate New York,” go to excellusbcbs.com/factsheets.
     
     

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