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Are Oregon hospitals doing enough to stop deadly infections?

It seems as if we go no more than a couple of weeks without hearing about how dangerous it can be to go to the hospital. Last October, we posted a blog entry about the different kinds of infections patients can be exposed to while being treated.

The next month, perspective was offered about how emergency rooms in the state sometimes fail to take the time to properly assess a patient’s condition or are too 0quick to refuse treatment if medical insurance coverage is in question.

With all that talk you would think that some action would follow, and indeed there has been some. But in the face of some of the data that can be found, the question some are prompted to ask is whether the action being taken makes a difference.

The seriousness of the issue is easy to understand. According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1.7 million patients contract healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) every year in the U.S. And of those, it’s estimated some 99,000 patients die.

Because these are believed to be preventable situations, it would seem that these would represent cause to file a wrongful death claim. The answer may hinge on whether sufficient proof can be obtained to make a case. That is something to discuss with an experienced attorney.

So what action is being taken? Well, here are a couple of examples. First, as a recent report by KGW-TV pointed out, there is the Oregon government’s report on Health Care Acquired Infections. It is intended to give users a view into what hospitals in the state are doing to counter HAIs. But it doesn’t seem to be designed to help the average consumer. The word consumer doesn’t even appear in the report, and it’s not too intuitive.

Besides that, there’s a provision of the Affordable Care Act that has the federal government docking hospitals 1 percent of annual Medicare payments if they rank in the bottom 25 percent for HAIs. That reportedly may translate into millions of dollars for some larger hospital systems in our area.

Since the penalties are brand new it’s hard to know how they’ll work. We’ll just have to keep an eye on things and, in the meantime, act on our own behalf when infections do occur.