Schenectady County

Hospitals fare well in infection prevention

Capital Region hospitals rank on par with or above the state average when it comes to preventing the

Capital Region hospitals rank on par with or above the state average when it comes to preventing the spread of infections to patients, according to a state Department of Health study released Tuesday.

This year’s Hospital-Acquired Infections Report indicates that the state’s medical facilities as a whole have lower rates of surgical site infections than the national average. However, New York hospitals recorded higher rates of central line-associated bloodstream infections in intensive care units than those reported across the country, the Heath Department’s report found.

“An important finding of this report is that we did not identify a single hospital with high hospital-acquired infection rates across the board,” said state Health Commissioner Richard Daines. “The department has begun to work with hospitals reporting the highest infection rates to identify opportunities for prevention.”

Among its findings, the 132-page report indicates a significant decrease in colon surgical site infection rates when compared to the national average in 2007. Coronary artery bypass graft chest infection rates also declined from a year ago.

Central line-associated bloodstream infection rates in intensive care units were the same or higher than national rates recorded between 2006 and 2007, according to the study. The state’s hospital-acquired infection reporting process began in 2007, with first-year findings released in June 2008.

Nearly all of the hospitals in the Capital Region were ranked as being at the state average in all 12 categories of infections detailed in the study. The Albany Medical Center Hospital was the only area hospital to be flagged as having an above average rate of infection in any category.

The report found an elevated rate of central line bloodstream infections at Albany Med’s pediatric intensive care unit, which had double the percentage of infections than the state average reported in 2008. The report defines a central line as a tube that is placed in a large vein so that a patient can receive fluids and medication or have blood taken.

In the category of coronary artery bypass and chest surgery, Albany Med reported no infections, which was far better than the state average.

Albany Med spokesman Greg McGarry said the hospital has already taken steps to reduce the number of infections reported in its pediatric intensive care unit. He said the report has helped physicians isolate areas that need to improve and implement immediate strategies to stave off further infections.

“In the one area where we exceeded the statewide average infection rate in 2008, we already have implemented an action plan that is achieving positive results — we have not had a single central line-associated bloodstream infection in the pediatric intensive care unit in 2009,” he said.

McGarry said the staff at Albany Med was re-educated on appropriate sterilization techniques. Staffers are now wearing sterile masks, gowns and gloves during line insertions in addition to using sterile drapes. These procedures are also being followed whenever a dressing is changed.

Albany Med is also requiring all individuals present at the time of line insertions or dressing changes to wear sterile masks. McGarry said the hospital is having a second nurse present during such changes so that they can retrieve procedural items from other rooms without jeopardizing the sterile environment.

“The result of the re-education effort and changes in protocol have proved to be very positive,” he said.

Ellis Hospital in Schenectady was reported on par in all 12 categories.

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