Fighting The 'super Bug'


Posted: October 22, 2007

SUPER BUGS, resistant strains and hospital-acquired infections.

Oh, my.

News reports are crawling with detailed stories of these sickening strains of infectious microbes that are cropping up in schools, locker rooms and especially in hospitals. The MRSA outbreak at Chichester High School brought it all home for us this week.

MRSA, mercifully short for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, is just the most prominent of a class of preventable infections that often get passed along on the hands of health-care workers. The current Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that 94,000 cases a year contracted in the United States.

The good news for Pennsylvanians is that this outbreak points out the wisdom of one aspect of Gov. Rendell's comprehensive health-care vision. His multi-layered approach mandates that hospital get serious about reducing infections.

A bill signed in July requires Pennsylvania hospitals to expedite reporting of all hospital-acquired and multi-drug-resistant infections and to develop plans for preventing them.

The reporting requirement also calls for those hospitals to set up an electronic reporting system that links to the National Health Safety Network of the Centers for Disease Control.

The bill, passed in July, uses a carrot-and-stick approach. Failure to have a plan in place by the end of the year could lead to serious sanctions, including a hospital's loss of license. Hospitals with effective plans could reap some financial rewards from the state.

What makes this so imperative is that locating outbreaks allows for targeted interventions.

Rendell's imperative was prompted in part by research at the University of Pittsburgh Hospital that showed how preventable these infections are through simple hygiene measures.

Bottom line, Rendell-administration health officials say, is that the cost of an average hospital stay is $31,389 compared to the $185,000 average bill for a patient who contracts an infection in the hospital.

That kind of savings could help make the cost of covering uninsured Pennsylvanians affordable.

And since this page strives for fairness and accuracy, we owe a shout-out to City Councilman Jack Kelly, whom we recently criticized for spending time on MRSA instead of important city business:

OK, you were right. *

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