Flickr photo by Arantxata
There should be consequences for the 15 percent of California hospitals not reporting basic data about hospital-acquired infections to the state, Sen. Elaine Alquist said at a senate hearing yesterday.
Alquist, D-San Jose, carried laws that require hospitals to report infections that patients pick up in hospitals, such as MRSA and illness from bacteria in intravenous lines.
It's an issue the lawmaker is clearly focused on, as she made several references to the life-or-death importance of helping or haranguing hospitals into working harder to harm fewer patients.
"For one person to die is one person way too many," Alquist said in the opening remarks of the hearing.
The Department of Public Health has been collecting the data from hospitals for several years and is expected to issue a report on its findings in January.
But 15 percent of the state's hospitals have not signed up to share data they’re mandated to send to the federal National Healthcare Safety Network. Alquist said the department may need to step up its efforts to compel those hospitals to send in details about patients who are getting sick and dying as a result of hospital-borne infections.
A famous 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine [PDF] called “To Err is Human” found that as many as 98,000 Americans die each year as a result of preventable medical errors.
The laws passed in 2005 and 2006 were meant to force the hospitals to publicly report their infection rates, a step that's expected to spur dialog and improve performance.
It's a strategy that other state authorities say has been effective, as noted in a report released this week [PDF] showing that heart bypass surgery deaths have fallen since public reporting of the fatalities began more than a decade ago.
During the hearing, Department of Public Health deputy director Kathleen Billingsley also revealed that 80 hospitals have not reported a single "adverse event," another requirement of the patient safety law.
The law requires hospitals to report the occurrence of more than two dozen “never” events, such as leaving a sponge in a patient after a surgery or operating on the wrong patient or body part.
Billingsley said her office is sending letters to the chief executives of those 80 hospitals, asking them to verify that they did not have any such incidents in their hospitals. Those events also include patients acquiring a bedsore, which is by far the most commonly reported problem.
The state has fined hospitals more than $1 million for failing to report such mishaps or reporting them later than the law requires. I wrote about that a while back, and you can see the list of hospitals that were fined here.
Today, I’m also posting a state spreadsheet that details the adverse events that have been reported to the state. Check that out here.