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Thousands infected in Pennsylvania hospitals

More than 11,000 people caught some sort of infection in Pennsylvania hospitals last year and nearly 1,800 died from them, according to a report.
/ Source: Reuters

More than 11,000 people caught some sort of infection in Pennsylvania hospitals last year and nearly 1,800 died from them, according to a report released Wednesday.

The report is the first detailed look at the problem of hospital-acquired infections in any U.S. state. Experts knew such infections were a problem but have been unable to precisely pinpoint them.

“Until now, we could only guess how many patients suffered from hospital acquired infections in Pennsylvania or any other state,” said Beth McConnell, director of the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

“By shining the spotlight on this serious patient safety issue, we hope this report will help lead to improved infection control practices in Pennsylvania and beyond.”

The report from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council is the first generated by a new state law mandating the collection of hospital-specific infection reports.

The study found that Pennsylvania hospitals reported 11,600 patients who got infections in 2004 while seeking medical care and 1,793 patients died as a result.

Usually, such infections come from improper hygiene by health care workers — failure to wash hands properly or at all, a failure to use gloves, inadequate sanitizing of equipment and other mistakes.

Virginia, Nebraska, Nevada, and New York enacted laws this year requiring the gathering of such data, while Florida, Illinois and Missouri have legislation in the works.

The report estimates that the infections cost an extra $2 billion for 205,000 extra days of hospitalization.