Proposal would require Maryland hospitals to publish infection rates

Tuesday, February 22nd 2005, 8:43 am
By: News On 6

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) _ Michael Bennett says his father suffered terribly before he died from fighting six kinds of hospital infections, and he doesn't want others to suffer the same way.

``He did not deserve this torture,'' said Bennett of his father, who entered a Baltimore area hospital with pneumonia and died four months later after contracting the infections, including a flesh-eating bacteria that took his left leg. He was checked into five Baltimore area hospitals before he died, two days after turning 89.

``He was betrayed by the people he trusted most _ the doctors and the hospitals.''

So, Bennett is pushing for a state law that would require hospitals to publish reports on their infection rates. Maryland is one of 25 states considering statutes that would compel hospitals to post such information.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 2 million U.S. patients are sickened each year by hospital infections, and about 90,000 die. The CDC says the most dangerous are caused by bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics.

The nonprofit Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is promoting a campaign to push such legislation nationwide. The group argues hospitals will be motivated to improve their infection rates if they are required to publish reports.

``It's a pretty simple premise _ that if the public understands the issue and the problem and knows the extent of the problem and can compare hospitals, they can put some pressure on the hospitals to improve their quality,'' said Lisa McGiffert, director of the Stop Hospital Infections project for Consumers Union.

Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida and Missouri have approved such laws requiring hospitals to report infection rates, McGiffert said. Pennsylvania is the only state collecting the information.

Maryland's legislation, proposed by Delegate Shane Pendergrass, would require the state Health Care Commission to collect data from each hospital in the state.

The commission would track surgical site infections, pneumonia as a result of ventilator use, bloodstream infections from using a central line and urinary tract infections. The data would be released to the public by September 2006 and annual reports would have to be published beginning in December 2006.

Hospitals generally agree infections are a threat, but they disagree about how they should be tracked.

The Maryland Hospital Association says it supports reporting hospital infection rates, but argues the Maryland Health Care Commission, a state agency, already is developing a strategy for doing so.

``They're moving as fast as they think any legislation could,'' said Nancy Fiedler, a senior vice president and spokeswoman for the hospital association. ``Maryland is way ahead of other states that are taking up this bill.''