Hospital infections are one of the gravest dangers patients in today’s health care system face. A recent Wall Street Journal profile of one hospital seeing success in the fight against infections brings attention to the seriousness of the issue while offering some hope.
Through greater conscientiousness about “bugs” and new technologies, such as germ-killing ultraviolet light, the hospital, New Jersey’s Hunterdon Medical Center, succeeded in steeply reducing its rate of infections by such bacteria as VRE, C. diff – which helps kill approximately 14,000 patients in the U.S. each year – and the dreaded MRSA.
Hunterdon isn’t the only hospital that has made progress, thanks in part to government incentives. For instance, the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid no longer pays health care providers for treating some hospital infections and beginning in 2015, the facilities with the highest infection rates will see their federal payments reduced.
The battle, however, is not yet won. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, around one in 20 hospital patients still contract a potentially fatal infection, and that’s unacceptable. As Hunterdon’s infection prevention director, Kathy Roye-Horn, told Wall Street Journal, “These are killer infections. The patients have a right to be protected from them.”
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