New York State has made progress in decreasing hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), but additional improvement is necessary, according to the Labor Management Project’s review of data reported in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) annual HAI Progress Report.

HAIs are a major preventable threat to patient safety. These infections lead to prolonged hospital stays, increased healthcare costs, emotional suffering and even death. Each year in the U.S., about 75,000 patients die during their hospitalization due to HAIs. The CDC’s ultimate goal is to eliminate that threat.

The CDC tracks infections through its National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). In New York, 168 hospitals send data to the NHSN. According to the HAI Progress Report, New York hospitals have made significant progress in decreasing central line-associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), C. difficile infections, and surgical site infections related to abdominal hysterectomy between 2013 and 2014. However, there was no significant decrease in MRSA bacteremia or in surgical site infections related to colon surgery. And, while CAUTIs significantly decreased in New York hospitals, the state’s performance was still below the national average.

MRSA control is important for three main reasons. One, MRSA bacteria cause bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, CAUTIs and pneumonia. Two, there are limited treatment options for MRSA because it is resistant to many antibiotics. Lastly, MRSA is easily spread. Health care workers who have contact with a patient with an infected wound can transmit the infection to other patients.

To prevent the transmission of MRSA, a high level of adherence to infection control practices, such as hand hygiene, contact precautions, and environmental cleaning, is critically important. The CDC provides guidance on contact precautions. These include placing MRSA patients in single-patient rooms, wearing gloves when touching a MRSA patient or when in the patient’s room, wearing a gown in an infected patient’s room, proper gown disposal, limiting transport of the patient, safe transport of the patient, proper cleaning of patient-care equipment, and environmental measures. The CDC also provides guidance on environmental cleaning and disinfection for MRSA, which includes a list of products effective against the bacteria, how to use cleaners and disinfectants, and cleaning after a MRSA infection.

Many patients are at risk for CAUTIs, given that approximately 15-25% of hospitalized patients receive urinary catheters. Catheter insertion using sterile techniques, proper catheter care, and hand washing by hospital staff handling catheters all contribute to preventing CAUTIs. The CDC’s Guideline for Prevention of CAUTIs explains proper techniques for catheter insertion and maintenance as well as how to implement a quality improvement program to enhance appropriate use of catheters and reduce CAUTI risk.

To find out how your hospital is performing on hospital acquired infections, check the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s Hospital Compare tool.

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