Hospital infections too deadly to ignore

As statutes go, Nile's Law should have been a snap to implement.

The 2008 law, approved by a combined vote in the Legislature of 114-4, is aimed at informing consumers about a serious health threat.  The California Department of Public Health, hospitals, unions, and patient advocates agreed on the compromise.

As described by Sen. Elaine Alquist, the bill's author, the measure was intended to provide people with readily accessible information about hospital-acquired infections, and name hospitals and their infection rates.

An estimated 12,000 Californians die annually from infections acquired in hospitals. When Nile Moss, a 15-year-old boy, died of a drug-resistant infection acquired in an Orange County hospital in 2006, his mother, Carole Moss, embarked on a crusade to force public disclosure of the problem.

Acknowledging a problem is a basic step toward solving it. Three years after Alquist's bill became law, the state has produced partial reports, heavy on numbers and codes that mean little to people not in the health care field.

One report goes so far as to discourage people from drawing conclusions based on its data: "Comparison of the facility-specific rates within this report should be avoided because rate differences may be attributable to variations in surveillance practices as well as infection risk."

Translation: Don't pay any attention to whatever you might think you've taken away from this document.

Journalist Deborah Schoch, of the nonprofit Center for Health Reporting, and The Bee's Anita Creamer delved into the issue in a two-part series that appeared Sunday and Monday.

As Schoch reported, the Department only recently began crafting regulations to enforce the law, frustrating consumer groups and hospitals alike. Completed regulations are not expected for at least another 18 to 24 months. That's unacceptable.

Hospitals have sued to block implementation of some regulations.

"What are the hospitals afraid of?" Alquist asks.

Several other states have produced highly informative reports on the issue. In a sense, it's surprising that California is a laggard. This is a state that has led the way on many public health issues, most notably tobacco-caused disease.

The effort to inform the public about hospital infections stumbled during Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration. Now it's Gov. Jerry Brown's responsibility. Excuses about lack of money and short-handed staff are just that, excuses.

-- Editorial from the Sacramento Bee

More Stories from This Project

State issues improved guide to hospital infections

California health officials Friday unveiled new hospital-acquired infection rates for hundreds of private and public hospitals and vowed to become a national leader in making that data public for consumers to review. The barrage of reports appears...

Legislators disappointed in state's infections performance

Key California legislators who oversee the state’s health agencies said Wednesday that they are disappointed in how slowly the state Department of Public Health has acted on landmark laws designed to protect hospital patients from potentially deadly...

California declines national infection-fighting program

Dr. Peter Pronovost spearheaded a program that sharply reduced potentially deadly infections at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and has created a much-acclaimed model that has since spread to 46 states in the nation.
  • 1 of 3

Photos from This Project

Comments

Other Articles

Stress case: What’s behind the increased demand for mental health counseling from SoCal college students?

On February 7, author Claudia Boyd-Barrett appeared on Southern California Public Radio's Air Talk with Larry Mantle to discuss her project about...

At some schools, mental health battle includes the Bible

This article originally appeared in the Orange County Register. All kinds of colleges are dealing with unprecedented student demand for mental health...

California colleges, like USC, are in the midst of a mental health care crisis. Can help come fast enough?

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News. “Are you actually going to kill yourself?” Sociology Professor...
  • 1 of 254

Other Audio

© 2019 Center for Health Reporting

Login