The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 29, 2012

Report: Infection rate decreases in region’s hospitals

Randy Griffith
rgriffith@tribdem.com

— Hospitals throughout the region followed or exceeded the state trend of reducing the number and rate of health-care-associated infections obtained while receiving medical care, a new state report said.

Statewide, the infection rate decreased more than 3 percent during 2011, the annual report by the Pennsylvania Department of Health said.

“The findings in this report highlight the continued progress Pennsylvania is making in improving the quality of care in hospitals across the state,” Acting Secretary of Health Michael Wolf said.

Somerset Hospital, Altoona Regional Health System, Indiana Regional Health System, and Miners, Meyersdale and Windber medical centers had overall infection rates below the state average of 2.22 infections for every 1,000 patient-days.

Memorial’s infection rate of 2.71 infections was slightly above the state average, but below the average of 2.95 infections for similar hospitals with at least 100,000 patient-days during the year. Memorial had 121,737 patient-days.

Acting Physician General Dr. Stephen Ostroff warned that the overall infection rates are not calculated with consideration for the severity of condition, complications or other factors.

New to this year’s report is a breakdown of specific infections known to be problems in hospital settings. It includes a hospital-specific section showing infection trends since 2008, when the first report was issued.

Urinary tract infections related to catheters, bloodstream infections from feeding tubes or other central lines and surgical site infections are shown with risk-adjusted calculations.

But even those should be taken with a grain of salt, Ostroff said Thursday in a teleconference.

“There is no way we can do perfect risk adjustments at different hospitals,” Ostroff said. “We can’t account for every nuance. It is very imperfect.”

By looking at extremes in hospitals with significantly more infections than expected, or significantly less than expected, patients have a good starting point for choosing a hospital, he said, adding that they should also look at the infection trends since 2008.

Somerset Hospital was among those with lower-than-expected infection rates in key areas. With only eight health-care-related infections overall, none involved surgical sites or urinary tract infections related to catheters.

Chief Operating Officer Craig Saylor credits policies and procedures recommended by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Somerset adopted the organization’s “best practices” a few years ago with protocols involving medical and nursing staff.

“All those have accounted for the success of the hospital,” Saylor said.

Windber’s numbers were in line with expectations, but continued to decline. Hospital Vice President for Nursing Mary Lee Dadey said Windber’s patient-centered focus and team approach led to success.

Protocols stress the minimal use of catheters and other central lines, with daily review of their necessity, Dadey said.

“There is confidence that a patient can take in coming to Windber, knowing that our practices and protocols are the highest standards and take infection control practices seriously,” Dadey said.

The report should be only one tool in choosing a hospital, Ostroff said.

“This is not the only piece of information that a patient should use in trying to decide where they get their health care,” Ostroff said.

Patients also should consider insurance acceptance, type of care being provided and if their physician is on staff, he said.