WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. healthcare facilities aren't doing enough to protect patients from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections, according to a new poll of infection control professionals released today.
The online poll conducted by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC) found that 59 percent of those responding said their healthcare facility has stepped up efforts to curb MRSA in the past six months. But 50 percent said their healthcare facility is "not doing as much as it could or should to stop the transmission of MRSA."
"It's troubling that so many infection control professionals say not enough is being done to prevent the spread of MRSA," said Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union's Stop Hospital Infections Campaign (http://www.StopHospitalInfections.org). "MRSA could be beat if the leadership at hospitals moved more aggressively to adopt strategies proven to protect patients from these virulent infections. We need to require hospitals to report their infection rates so the public can see if they are achieving results."
Consumers Union has worked to help pass laws in 20 states requiring hospitals to report their patient infection rates. Legislation to establish a national infection reporting law has been introduced in Congress by lead sponsors Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).
Last June, APIC published the first nationwide MRSA prevalence study and found that MRSA was 8.6 times more common than previous estimates had indicated. The report found that the antibiotic-resistant bacteria are found in all wards throughout most hospitals. In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that nearly 95,000 developed MRSA infections in 2005 and almost 19,000 people died. CDC research indicates that 85 percent of these infections are picked up by patients exposed to MRSA in hospitals and other healthcare settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers.
APIC's most recent survey found that 41 percent of infection control professionals said their healthcare facility had not taken any new prevention measures since the MRSA prevalence study was published in June. Of these respondents, 19 percent said there were "no resources to change their approach" while 33 percent noted other reasons such as the "lack of support from hospital leadership, not enough staff and lack of time." Of those who reported that not enough was being done to curb MRSA, most wanted their healthcare facilities to screen high-risk patients for MRSA, improve hand hygiene, and increase the use of gloves and gowns with patients who test positive for MRSA.
Many hospitals in northern Europe have used these strategies to successfully control MRSA for decades. A pilot program employing MRSA screening and additional precautions at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System in Pennsylvania in 2001 has reduced infections in the hospital's surgical unit by 70 percent. The program proved so successful that it is now being implemented in all VA hospitals nationwide.
Numerous studies have shown that this approach helps save money by preventing infections that would result in even higher costs for the patient and hospital. A recent analysis found that hospitals nationwide would save more than $231 million annually if all elective surgery patients were screened for MRSA upon admission and proper precautions were taken with those found colonized with MRSA.
"We know how to prevent MRSA infections, but most hospitals aren't stepping up to use these effective infection control practices," said McGiffert. "Hospitals must make a commitment to protect patients from MRSA by investing the resources and leadership needed to stop these infections."
Consumers Union supports legislation to require hospitals to screen high-risk patients for MRSA and take special precautions with those colonized with the bacteria to prevent its spread. So far, MRSA screening requirements have been adopted by Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Source: Consumers Union