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New York State report: Hospital-acquired infections going down

Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow reported

Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow reported zero laboratory-confirmed bloodstream infections and was noted as having a rate below the state average in that category, according to a recent report. Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

State health officials Thursday released a 2014 hospital-acquired infections report that painted an encouraging portrait of lower rates even as the document’s authors bemoaned an estimated 2,000 deaths statewide attributable to infectious organisms.

“Reducing these infections requires constant vigilance and preventive strategies,” state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement Thursday. “These numbers show that hospitals’ efforts are paying off and resulting in better health.”

Zucker and other officials at the health department commended hospitals for efforts aimed at driving down hospital-acquired infections, noting that New York institutions “have prevented an estimated 15,000 possible infections since statewide reporting began in 2007.”

The 176-page report covers infections occurring as a result of colon procedures, hip replacements, hysterectomies and coronary bypass surgery. The information is filed through the federal National Healthcare Safety Network, a system that allows the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor New York’s infection data.

Mortality as a result of hospital-acquired infections was only an estimate in the report. Authors noted that is because the electronic reporting system does not categorize deaths associated with hospital-acquired infections.

The estimated 2,000 deaths in 2014 were said to have been caused by Clostridium difficile — C.diff. — and antibiotic-resistant pathogens. But state health officials say only 850 of those deaths “may have been hospital-acquired.”

Chest infections associated with coronary bypass artery surgery have declined by 34 percent since mandatory reporting began eight years ago, according to the report; laboratory-confirmed blood infections have decreased by 57 percent; those linked to hip replacement surgery have dropped by 10 percent since 2008, and infections associated with hysterectomy have decreased by 15 percent since 2012.

Despite generally favorable news, the state health department also noted that antibiotic-resistant organisms are nevertheless a growing concern and urged hospitals to double down on efforts to fight the threat of superbugs.

Stony Brook University Hospital and Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola were cited in the report for C. diff infections that occurred at a rate higher than the state average in 2014.

Sometimes the numbers of infections were small, but still above the state average. St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson was noted for an above-average infection rate with hip replacements in 2014. North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, now Northwell Health, was listed as having had a higher-than-average rate for coronary artery bypass operations.

For some institutions, the statistical news was good.

Nassau University Medical Center reported zero laboratory-confirmed bloodstream infections and was noted as having a rate below the state average in that category.

The state also defended itself against the CDC’s claim that New York’s rates of hospital-acquired infections exceed those of other states. The report’s authors noted that New York reports infections more rigorously than other states, which they said likely explains more cases of infection.

New York’s 2014 infection figures should have been reported in 2015, but the state did not answer Newsday’s inquiry Thursday about the document’s tardiness. Officials also failed to answer questions about antibiotic-resistant organisms and whether there have been outbreaks in New York of CRE — carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae — linked to endoscopic procedures.

Advocates for patients, however, say the state needs to do a better job of keeping consumers informed.

“I am not surprised that it’s late,” said Betsy McCaughhey, former New York lieutenant governor and executive director of the Committee to Prevent Infection Deaths, an advocacy organization. “There is inadequate pressure [on the state] on behalf of patients to release this kind of data.”

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