Hospital survey finds more targeting resistant bacteria

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Limiting the march of antibiotic-resistant bacteria into the hospital is a growing focus of hospitals across the country and in Augusta.

A survey released Tuesday by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology found that 76 percent had increased efforts in the past year to control the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. This comes a year after another survey by the group found that MRSA levels were eight times higher than previously thought and that 67 percent were in areas of the hospitals besides the intensive care unit, long considered an MRSA breeding ground.

That "wake-up call" has evidently been answered, said Kathy L. Warye, the CEO of the 12,000-member group. "We think the results are encouraging," she said.

But about 54 percent of the group's members said their facilities could do more. Under a new rule that will go into effect in October, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will no longer pay additional money to treat a patient who acquires an infection in a hospital.

Nearly three years ago, University Hospital began an effort to limit MRSA by screening patients coming in for high-risk elective surgeries, such as heart or implant surgeries, said Chief Medical Officer William Farr. It has paid off -- there has been only one infection among those patients in that time, he said.

"We're not reacting to regulatory or reimbursement issues," Dr. Farr said. "We're doing what we have believed for a good while to be in the best interests of the patient."

The hospital has added rapid testing within the past month and is also screening ICU patients and units with high numbers of patients with chronic conditions, he said.

Doctors Hospital has also begun screening those higher-risk patients, such as those being transferred from another health care facility, spokeswoman Anne Cordeiro said.

Trinity Hospital of Augusta is awaiting guidelines from the corporate office of Community Health Systems that will likely include targeted screening, said infection control practitioner Pat Revolinski.

Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics will begin a program next month to target high-risk areas such as the ICU and high-risk surgeries, and will use an electronic system to track patients in real-time, said Dr. David Snyder, the vice president of patient care quality and safety.

"It's clearly the right thing to do," he said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.


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