Hospital-acquired infections are responsible for 12,000 California deaths every year, according to a report by the state. In addition, an estimated 200,000 Californians become infected while they were hospitalized.
California has taken an important step toward changing these numbers by requiring hospitals to report their infection rates this year. This knowledge will empower patients to protect themselves, eventually helping them to choose hospitals with lower infection rates.
Nile Moss was 15 years old when he was infected with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. MRSA is a type of staph infection that is resistant to antibiotics. Nile acquired the infection after undergoing routine tests at an Orange County children’s hospital. He developed pneumonia and, despite being admitted to the hospital, succumbed to the infection.
MRSA kills almost 100,000 people in the U.S. every year. Patients can be infected by tubes and other tools used by medical professionals. The infection is preventable in many cases, however – by washing hands, using sterile equipment and avoiding cross-contamination between patients. Indeed, most hospital-acquired infections are preventable.
Nile’s mother, Carole Moss, became an outspoken advocate on the issue of hospital-acquired infections. Through her efforts and the support of California legislators, Nile’s Law passed in 2008.
The new law requires California hospitals to report their rates of four types of infection (MRSA, IV or catheter-transmitted infections, clostridium difficile infection and Vancomycin-resistant enterococcal bloodstream infection). The hospitals had to release their data by January 1, 2011.
The reporting this first year has been uneven, according to state officials. Hospitals’ collection and analysis of data has varied, making it difficult to perform reliable comparisons. The reports, however, will serve to make patients more aware of the dangers of hospital-acquired infections while measures are implemented to improve future reporting.
Next year, hospitals will report their findings online using standardized methods. California officials hope that more hospitals will submit complete reports, since less than 70 percent of hospitals supplied all of the required information this year.
If you or a family member is in the hospital, do not be afraid to ask medical care providers if they have washed their hands or to inquire about other safety procedures. Patients have a right to ask questions and confirm that medical personnel are taking proper care to prevent against hospital errors.
If you or a loved one developed an infection from a hospital stay, it could have been due to the negligence of a health care provider or the hospital. Speak with a medical malpractice attorney to find out whether you can pursue compensation for the damages caused by the infection.