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Alle-Kiski Valley hospitals score well in report on infections

| Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010

Four area hospitals ranked at or below the state average for health care-associated infections (HAI), according to the first report on infections issued Tuesday by the state Department of Health.

The agency said 213 hospitals in the state reported 13,771 hospital-acquired infections in the six-month period from July to December 2008 for an overall rate of 2.84 infections per 1,000 patient days. The report emphasized two infection types: urinary tract infections associated with the use of catheters, and bloodstream infections associated with use of intravenous lines.

It followed state tallies of hospital infections produced by another agency, the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. Health department officials said data from the agencies cannot be compared because they used different methodologies.

"While the first department of health infection report is a snapshot in time, it gives clinicians, regulators and the public a good look at the evolution of patient safety and infection-prevention efforts in Pennsylvania over the past few years," said Carolyn F. Scanlan, president of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, a state association representing hospitals.

Alle-Kiski Medical Center's Chief Operating Officer Michael Harlovic attributes the hospital's 2.05 rating to several factors.

"If a patient no longer needs to have a catheter, then we will discontinue its use," he said. "Patients are also checked on a daily basis for signs of (bloodstream) infections. Only our (intravenous) team manages the (central) lines and have a strict standard protocol."

Dr. Raymond Pontzer, chief of infectious diseases at UPMC St. Margaret, said the hospital has several different practices in place to prevent various infections.

"We have programs set up for almost every type of infection," he said.

Butler Memorial Hospital also implements a comprehensive control program, according to Dr. Tom McGill, vice president of quality and safety.

Pontzer said the hospital tests every person coming into the hospital with a nose swab to ensure they do not have methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. More than 8 percent of all infections in the report were caused by MRSA.

UPMC St. Margaret Clinical Director for Infection Control Jackie Stogoski said it isn't just practices that earned the hospital a 2.71 rate, but it is the employees.

"The staff are always willing to learn and that is the key to quality care," she said.

In addition, Armstrong County Memorial Hospital (ACMH) Vice President of Patient Services Jeanne Graff attributes its rate of 0.74 to every person working within the hospital, as well as the community.

"Everybody contributes. Our true level of success involves everybody," she said.

ACMH President and Chief Executive Officer John Lewis said the hospital has set a goal of zero health care-associated infection in 2010.

"We are pleased about our low rate but not completely surprised," he said. "We have spent tens of thousands of dollars on protection equipment such as gowns and masks."

All hospitals stressed the importance of frequent hand washing and having hand sanitizer throughout the facilities.

Scanlan said hospitals are employing strategies to reduce the spread of infections, including special air circulation systems, isolation rooms, greater use of private rooms, antibiotic-coated catheters and infection technology to track infection patterns.

In July 2007, Gov. Ed Rendell signed legislation requiring hospitals to report infections within 48 hours.

According to the report, nearly 25 percent of the infections were urinary tract infections, followed by surgical site infections at 22 percent and intestinal infections at 18 percent.

"I think Pennsylvania is on the cutting edge among all the states in this type of report," McGill said. "My hat's off to everyone making that happen. This kind of reporting keeps our attention on it and us focused to improve year after year."

The full report is available on the Department of Health Web site .

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Luis Fábregas contributed to this story.

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