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LI hospitals fare well in state infection report card

Long Island hospitals generally fared well in the state's report card on hospital-acquired infections, a problem that affects nearly 2 million people nationwide and causes an estimated 100,000 deaths. The report, released Tuesday by the State Health Department, is the second under a 2005 law requiring New York hospitals to report selected hospital infections. The 132-page document is the first to list rates of infection at the state's 186 institutions, including all 30 hospitals on Long Island. Figures for the 2008 data are available to consumers online. State investigators focused on surgical site infections for colon, hip replacement and coronary bypass graft surgeries as well as central-line infections, in which microorganisms enter the blood through a catheter placed into a large vein in the neck, chest, groin or elsewhere. "I applaud the New York State Department of Health in undertaking this effort," said Dr. William Greene, an infectious disease specialist at Stony Brook University Medical Center. "It has a number of important features for public disclosure and transparency for patients." Although the report does not list precise numbers of infections, it does provide a statistically adjusted rate and indicates how an individual hospital compares with the state average. "An important finding of this report is that we did not identify a single hospital with high hospital-acquired infection rates across the board," State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines said Tuesday. While LI hospitals generally fared well, none reached ratings of zero infections for all categories. Central-line associated bloodstream infections are a major source of infections. Statewide there are six central line infections for every 822 catheterizations performed on patients in coronary intensive care units for a statewide rate of 2.2. Nassau University Medical Center was above that state average with an adjusted rate of 7.3. The data also showed Stony Brook to be slightly above the state average among catheterized patients in the medical ICU. Greene attributed the problem to complicated cases requiring "multiple lines." He said the hospital is working to lower infection rates At North Shore there was a higher-than-average rate of central-line infections among neonatal ICU patients last year. The hospital has worked to reduce the problem this year, and so far has had no infections. "That is one area we did flag . . . and this year we've had zero [infections]," said Terry Lynam, spokesman for the Long Island Jewish Health System. Dr. Aaron Glatt, president and chief executive of New Island Hospital in Plainview, said having a rate above the state average does not mean a hospital is unsafe. His hospital received rankings below the state's averages in all measures studied in the report. "This is risk-adjusted; it is not perfect," he said. By weighting the numbers statistically, small hospitals can be more or less fairly compared with large ones.

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