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NY Hospitals expand efforts to reduce infections

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A coalition of New York hospitals that has been working to reduce hospital-acquired infections is expanding its efforts, just as the state Department of Health prepares to publicly report infection data for the first time next year, reports The New York Sun.

The 60-hospital group plans to focus on the bacterial infection, Clostridium difficile, as well as the safety of mothers and babies just before birth and immediately after.

In broadening the coalition’s focus, its organizers said they hope to change the culture of hospitals and to improve the quality of health care. The new effort also calls for educating front-line hospital staff — everyone from physicians to housekeepers — on infection control.

Hospital-acquired infections represent a serious problem around the country. Nationwide, patients develop an estimated 1.7 million infections each year.

Regional infection data is not available for New York, although hospitals here spend an estimated $2 billion each year treating preventable infections, according to a New York-based group, the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. On average, hospitals spend between $25,000 to $70,000 treating each infection. Recognizing the cost and the health toll of such infections, the coalition of New York hospitals began in 2004 to focus on reducing bloodstream infections associated with a type of intravenous hookup called a central line. Since then, the collective infection rate among the participating hospitals has dropped, according to data obtained from the United Hospital Fund and GNYHA, which spearheaded the collaborative. In April 2007, hospitals reported monthly infection rates of 1.76 for every 1,000 central line days, down from 5.01 in June 2005, the organizations reported.

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