HAIs Topped 13,000 in Second Half of 2008, Pennsylvania Department of Health Reports


More than 13,000 healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) were reported by Pennsylvania hospitals in the second half of 2008, according to initial data released by the Department of Health.

Such infections are illnesses that patients acquire as a result of being in the hospital and did not have prior to admission. Many HAIs are preventable and account for an estimated 1.7 million infections nationwide and contribute to 99,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Health Department reported the data as required by Act 52, the Reduction and Prevention of Health Care Associated Infection and Long-Term Care Nursing Facilities.

“This report highlights important legislation passed with the intent to drive down HAI infection rates in Pennsylvania health facilities,” said secretary of health Everette James. “The department is responsible for implementing Act 52 and ensuring hospitals are working to decrease their HAI rates, allowing for improvements to Pennsylvania's healthcare system by eliminating avoidable costs.”

The report includes HAIs for each hospital, with an emphasis on two specific infection types: urinary tract infections associated with the use of a catheter (CAUTI) and bloodstream infections associated with the use of a central line (CLABSI). These infections are among the more common HAIs and were selected by the department and the HAI Advisory Committee for hospital-to-hospital comparisons and to measure trends over time. Future reports will analyze the patterns of another common type of HAI known as surgical site infections.

In the last six months of 2008, a total of 13,771 HAIs were reported by Pennsylvania hospitals, for a rate of 2.84 HAIs per 1,000 days of hospitalization. The three most commonly reported HAIs were urinary tract infections (24.83 percent), surgical site infections (22.23 percent) and intestinal infections (18.15 percent). Among all reported infections, 8.12 percent were due to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is a significant concern in the hospital setting.

Nearly one-third of hospitals that used urinary catheters were found to have more CAUTI than the department expected. The same was true for CLABSI, where 30 percent of hospitals that used central lines had more infections than expected. When compared to other parts of the nation, the rates of these infections were overall lower in Pennsylvania than elsewhere.

In February 2008, all hospitals began electronically reporting HAIs using the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network. Hospitals are required to report the infection within 48 hours of their recognition. The Department of Health used the reported data to produce its initial 2008 analysis and will continue to produce an annual report.

“It is important to note that the 2008 data in this report is a snapshot in time. The legislation requires the baseline data to begin in 2009, and that report will be ready by May,” said acting physician general Dr. Stephen Ostroff. “From that point onward, data collected can be used to compare hospital infection rates and educate Pennsylvania healthcare consumers.”

Curbing HAIs is an urgent priority not only because doing so prevents unnecessary illnesses and deaths, but also because of the cost savings to be realized. According to the CDC, HAIs have been estimated to result in an excess of $30 billion in healthcare costs per year in the United States.

Act 52 is part of Gov. Rendell’s Prescription for Pennsylvania, a comprehensive blueprint for improving access, quality and affordability of health care. The governor’s goal is to ensure every Pennsylvania resident has access to quality and affordable healthcare. The ultimate goal of Act 52 is to produce consistent reductions in the occurrence of HAIs in order to eliminate them entirely.

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