New Report Finds that Preventable Infections Still Plague Hospitals– New Law to Crack Down on Unclean Hospitals

Preventable hospital infections are claiming some 100,000 lives a year nationwide and threatening patient safety, despite a renewed focus on cleaning up hospitals, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has found.

A recent report found in-hospital infections warrant “urgent attention,” with rates of post-operative bloodstream infections and catheter-associated urinary tract infections increasing by 8 and 4 percent respectively. Yet there is good news: the Agency found overall health care quality is slowly improving.

The Agency found hospitals have adopted basic standards for hand hygiene, disinfecting patients, sterile handling of equipment and antibiotic use. 

The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, anticipates a new law will improve the rates for hospital-acquired infections and prevent fatalities.  Starting in the 2015 fiscal year, hospitals with high rate of infections will face penalties.

Hospital-acquired infections are pervasive and fatal but also extremely preventable.  The Committee to Reduce Infection Death (RID) points to several areas where hospitals can improve: First, over half the time, doctors do not disinfect their hands immediately before touching a patient.  Also, many hospitals do not screen incoming patients for MRSA, one of the most pervasive in-hospital infections.  Finally, surgery patients may not be advised to shower with chlorhexidine soap daily before the operation, although the practice reduces the risk of infection.  RID hypothesizes as evidence of the preventable nature of in-hospital infections grows, so will hospital liability.

For more information on the Agency’s Annual Quality and Disparities Report, see this press release or the reports themselves.

For information about different types of hospital-acquired infections and methods to reduce infections, see this guide from the World Health Organization.

The attorneys at the Boston law firm of Breakstone, White and Gluck have over three decades of experience with medical malpractice, personal injury, and wrongful death cases.  If you need assistance with a case involving an injury from a hospital-acquired infection or other medical malpractice, contact an experienced lawyer by calling 800 379 1244.