WASHINGTON – The nations hospitals are failing to protect patients from potentially fatal infections despite years of prevention campaigns, the government said Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2009 quality report to Congress found very little progress on eliminating hospital-acquired infections and called for urgent attention to address the shortcomings, which were first brought to light a decade ago.
Of five major types of serious hospital-related infections, rates of illnesses increased for three, one showed no progress and one showed a decline. As many as 98,000 people a year die from medical errors, and preventable infections – along with medication mixups – are a significant part of the problem.
Such medical missteps will have financial consequences under President Obamas new health care overhaul law. Starting in a few years, Medicare payments to hospitals will be reduced for preventable readmissions and for certain infections that can usually be staved off with good nursing care.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the report a pretty clear diagnosis of some of the gaps and shortcomings in our nations health care system.
Although the U.S. spends about $2.5 trillion a year on medical care, patients often dont receive the care recommended for their particular condition. Patients are more likely to receive optimal care in a hospital as compared with an outpatient facility.
An accompanying study found continuing shortfalls in quality of care for minorities and low-income people, particularly the uninsured.
The bleak statistics on hospital infections were a disappointment for officials. It has been more than 10 years since the Institute of Medicine launched a crusade to raise awareness about medical errors and encourage providers to reduce and, if possible, eliminate them.
We know that focused attention to eliminating health-care-acquired infections can reduce them dramatically, said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, head of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which conducted the studies.
Statistics for 2007 were the latest available. According to the report:
The rate of bloodstream infections after surgery rose 8 percent.
The number of urinary infections from the use of a catheter following surgery rose 3.6 percent.
The number of common infections due to medical care rose 1.6 percent.
The number of bloodstream infections due to central venous catheters – tubes placed in the neck, chest or groin to deliver medication, drain fluid or collect blood samples – was unchanged.
The rate of pneumonia following surgery fell 12 percent.