In 2015, 52 hospitals in New York were flagged red for having a hospital-acquired infection rate higher than the state average in one of 21 indicators, according to a report from the New York State Department of Health.
A summary of “Hospital‐Acquired Infections in New York State, 2015” states that hospital infection preventionists are required to submit improvement plans to the department of health to address each red flag. The report contained the most recent data available from 175 New York hospitals.
Patients can acquire hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) during any treatment or stay in a hospital. The state department of health tracks 21 indicators of infection that fall under six types of HAIs:
- Surgical site infections (SSIs) following colon, coronary artery bypass graft, hip replacement, and hysterectomy procedures. SSIs can occur when germs get into an area were surgery is or was performed, and can involve tissues under the skin, organs, or implanted material.
- Central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs). Germs can enter the body if a tube placed in a large vein is not put in correctly or is not kept clean.
- Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs). If a urinary catheter is put in incorrectly or not kept clean, germs can infect the bladder and kidneys.
- Clostridium difficile infections (CDIs). Patients in poor health are more susceptible to this type of bacteria, which can cause potentially deadly diarrhea and is often resistant to antibiotics.
- Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae infections (CREs). Patients in hospitals are more likely to be infected with a germ from this family (for example, Escherichia coli ( coli)) that has high levels of resistance to antibiotics.
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bloodstream infections (BSIs). This common type of bacteria is often resistant to many antibiotics and can lead to sepsis and death in hospital patients.
When determining a hospital’s acquired-infection rate, the Department of Health adjusts for the proportion of high and low-risk patients and other factors. And the report notes that numbers alone don’t indicate how well a hospital is doing in preventing HAIs. But a high acquired-infection rate is troubling, because these types of infections are preventable if the care providers follow cleanliness protocols and established standards of care.
Negligence is usually the cause of hospital-acquired infections
Infections spread in hospitals when staff members or administrators are negligent. For example, the use of improperly sterilized medical devices or equipment can lead to a surgical site infection. An improperly cleaned surface gives bacteria a way to spread to the next person who touches it. Hospital workers can spread an infection from one patient to another by failing to properly wash their hands.
Other factors can lead to the spread of infection too, such as poor ventilation, failure to properly dispose of needles and failure to monitor patients. In short, the spread of infection often can be traced to medical professionals who don’t follow proper protocols and procedures, or hospitals that don’t do enough to keep patients safe.
The monitoring of hospitals by the Department of Health is welcome and needed, as patients need to be aware of potential infection risks. But even a hospital-acquired infection rate that is lower than the state average is still too high. Negligent parties need to be held responsible when patients acquire an infection during a hospital stay.