Rendell dislikes 2 bills to reduce hospital infections

Posted: June 27, 2007

HARRISBURG - The state House and Senate acted yesterday on separate legislation aimed at reducing the number of potentially fatal hospital-acquired infections, a priority for Gov. Rendell this budget season - but neither bill has the governor's support.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill (SB 968) requiring all health-care facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes, to implement infection-control plans. The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Edwin Erickson (R., Delaware), also provides incentive payments for health-care facilities that reduce hospital-acquired infections.

The House gave second consideration to a bill (HB 1552) that, like the Senate bill, would require infection reporting, but that also would require hospitals to meet certain benchmarks showing a reduction in infection rates.

Financial incentives would be available to hospitals that meet benchmarks; those that did not would get reduced state payments and could be fined and possibly suffer license penalties. The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D., Allegheny).

Through a spokesman, Rendell said he would not sign either bill.

Spokesman Chuck Ardo said, "We are working with the Pennsylvania Hospital Association, Rep. DeLuca, and Sen. Erickson to craft a bill on which all the parties can agree."

Rendell made reducing hospital-acquired infections a part of his broad-based "Prescription for Pennsylvania" health-care plan announced earlier this year and said this week he wanted the legislature to pass an acceptable bill as part of the budget process.

Last year, the state was the first to publicly report infection rates by hospital, when the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council issued its seminal report detailing the problem.

The Governor's Office, citing the council's most recent figures, said 2,500 patients in Pennsylvania died last year of hospital-acquired infections. It said the cost of caring for patients with such infections was $3.5 billion.

House Democrats said their bill, with its financial incentives, offered a carrot-and-stick approach to reduce infection rates.

"The House bill holds hospitals more accountable for specific benchmarks they have to meet for hospital-acquired infections," said Rick Speese, Democratic executive director of the House Insurance Committee.

He said that under the House bill, reporting would be handled through the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, which would make all infection information available to the public. Under the Senate bill, the Patient Safety Authority - which traditionally has not made individual hospital data available - would oversee reporting of infections.

Erickson did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The House bill is scheduled for final approval tomorrow.

DeLuca said his bill would cost $30 million to $50 million to implement statewide. It would require hospitals to have comprehensive data-collection systems by January 2009.

The House also passed five bills yesterday expanding the scope of practice of certain health professionals. Under the bills, which await Senate approval, certified nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists, and physicians assistants would be allowed to take on additional responsibilities. For instance, nurse midwives could prescribe drugs. The aim is to reduce costs and ease the burden on emergency rooms.

Rendell applauded the passage of the bills (HB 1251, HB 1252, HB 1253, HB 1254 and HB 1255), saying, "These bills will make it easier for patients to seek appropriate care where and when they need it, and also help to reduce costs."

For Pennsylvania House roll-call votes, go to

Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or

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