Archive

Posts Tagged ‘mrsa disability’

The High Road to MRSA Prevention

March 4th, 2010 1 comment

The high road to MRSA prevention

 

An old friend and infection control nurse that I respect a great deal for her efforts told me she did not believe in legislating Infection Control.  Others on the Maine Health and Human Services Committee have made similar statements. 

I just wonder how far I would have gotten if I had continued to contact the CDC, the Maine State attorney general, the CEO of my poor deceased father’s hospital…..how far would I have gotten with improved infection control without the legislation from last year.  Considering the opposition that I have encountered to simply get Maine patients screened for MRSA, my belief is that I would not have gotten anywhere and that Maine Hospitals would not be paying as much attention to MRSA prevention as they are now …..because of legislation.

Since the early 1990s, MRSA has been a growing problem…growing out of control.  It was recognized years ago as an emerging problem but in the late 80s and early 9os, declarations of epidemics came up.  In 2003, the SHEA or Society of Healthcare Epidemiologists, presented recommendations for the control and prevention of MRSA and VRE, another deadly drug resistant infection.  Those who adapted those recommendations have succeeded in dropping MRSA rates and keeping them low.  CDC ignored this success and continued recommending hand washing campaigns and other various and inconsistent methods of control that did not work.  As a result, MRSA rates continued to climb to all time highs over the past few years.

The death of 19,000 people and infection of hundreds of thousands more did not motivate hospitals to add the SHEA recommendations to their plan to stop infections.  Those deaths, loss of limbs, loss of livelihoods, disabilities and other sad and real results of MRSA infections did nothing to move US hospitals to widely accept the success of ADI. Rather than be herded like sheep into the CDC guidelines, it seems that more would have been impressed with huge MRSA reductions after the use of ADI and broken from the CDC  “pack”.

Unfortunately, it is taking legislation to make the needed difference..  We  now have a law  in Maine and still, Hospitals, Epidemiologists, nurse leaders and others are fighting it and hoping it will just go away.  None of them have embraced screening and/or committed to isolation precautions for all patients with positive results……as a good and proven measure of prevention.  Instead they have declared it “well intentioned but ineffective”.  This declaration was made just 3 days after screening started by a leading epidemiologist in Maine.  The descriptor “Well intentioned but ineffective” could also be used for my fathers hospital care, and now he is gone.

I took the high road by seeking legislation. It is my right as a citizen of the US and the State of Maine to seek solutions through the law making process.  I know ADI will work to bring down MRSA rates in our State and I will not stop until I see every hospital in the State using it and reporting out the excellent results they are getting because of it.

There are some lower roads to consider to accomplish this goal.  One is to work on more legislation to mandate that NO HOSPITAL ACQUIRED INFECTIONS be covered by any insurance in the State of Maine.  We may have to do this through more than one agency committee, but my bet is that Medicaid, and the insurance monopolies would welcome a list of things that they would not have to reimburse hospitals for. This would mean increased savings and profits for insurance companies and hopefully less burden put upon already hurting Mainers, who can barely pay their premiums now.   Medicare has already begun this trend of payment for performance quality only and not for preventable hospital failures. I can work on that more with the Consumers Union. 

Why should anybody pay huge costs for a deadly infection that the hospital gave them.  If I could accomplish this legislation, there would be protections for insurance policy holders/ healthcare consumers/ those who drive the medical care business  too, that it would be illegal to bill them for their HAI related expenses.

The second and lowest road is litigation.  If there is a young, progressive and ambitious attorney who would take the time, I could educate him/her on how these infections are preventable and how our hospitals are not doing all they can to prevent them.  That seems like negligence on a very large scale.  It is so hard to get hurt and frightened victims to speak out against their doctors and hospitals (there is that God like aura around them you know), but if an advertisement went into all the newspapers in Maine and there was even a whiff of money to be won in a class action suit, victims would come out of the wood work.  It could be worded like this.  “If you or a loved one has been harmed by a hospital acquired infection please contact …….all cases will be considered for a possible class action suit.  There is a law in the State of Maine that mandates that all high risk populations must be screened for MRSA.  If you were not screened and got a MRSA infection while hospitalized, please contact us.”

These three options are all there are, at the present time anyway.  Consumers Union plans to work with the CDC to get MRSA recommendations rearranged in the correct effective order, but on the State level, the preceding are the options.  I prefer the high road, but I just do not know if I can trust the hospitals to do the right thing.

It is hard to trust when your precious father has been killed by inadequate MRSA prevention in his hospital.

Consumers Union, Safe Patient project, Maine Screening program

December 2nd, 2009 No comments

On November 17 and 18, I attended an event sponsored by the Consumers Union, Safe Patient Project, titled “To Err is Human, To Delay is Deadly”.  Other activists and advocates very similar to me, attended and participated in panels.  Victims and organizers also attended.  The CU has the momentum to make  difference for patients and their safety.

I was inspired by the work and the level of dedication of these activists.  Most of us work alone with no funding and our goal is simple, to protect vulnerable patients from harm when they are being treated in our nation’ or State’s hospitals or by our doctors. It is little to ask or expect.  We pay a huge premium for care and we deserve the best.

The work of the Maine Quality Forum MDRO metrics group regarding MRSA  has culminated in a plan for a “Point Prevalence Test” .  This is the approach they have chosen rather than just going ahead with a good solid MRSA screening program.  During this ”test” we will screen known high risk populations for MRSA only on admission  for 6 months.  Then each and every hospital will report their results.  If at those hospitals, any population tests less than 7% positive screenings, they will eliminate that high risk population from the populations to be screened from that point on.  This sounded reasonable until I figured out that only 5% MRSA positives of the over 4000  transfer patients to EMMC has each year would be 200 patients colonized that would be admitted with  undetected MRSA colonization. (Only 1% would be 40 patients).   200 or more patients would go into EMMC each year colonized with MRSA colonization facing a myriad of procedures, or surgery, or other risky events that could leave them infected and disabled or dead.  Colonized patients are 7 times as likely to suffer an active MRSA infection.   200 patients would not be isolated and so could spread MRSA to other patients who are roomed with them.  This is not acceptable.   The goal should not be to do a test and eliminate high risk populations for screening purposes. The screening program should have the goal of finding all colonized patients.  Any percent of patients testing positive should validate a high risk population for screening purposes. On top of that,one single MRSA active hospital acquired infection in any population should trigger the beginning testing in that new high risk population.

If however there are no positive MRSA screenings in any particular high risk population after a full year, it would be reasonable then to eliminate them from screening.  If  in that facility, any patient in that High Risk population or any other population has an active hospital acquired infection at any time beyond that, that population should be added back into the high risk screening program.

So, after all these months of debating and negotiating in the MQF, we now have a plan that has potential to self destruct within the next 6 to 9 months. We also have a plan that has no method of determining efficiency.  Screening on discharge is the only way we would know if a pateint has become colonized or infected while hospitalized.  Our law says that  “hospitals will do surveillance on high risk patients”.  It does not specify that the surveillance would be only on admission.  Most patients are at increased risk for colonization or infection because they going into the hospital or a particular hospital department.  We should re screen these patients one week into a hospital stay or on admission into the ICU, and on discharge.  THIS ADDITIONAL SCREENING IS THE GUAGE ON HOW EFFECTIVE INFECTION CONTROL FOR MRSA IS IN A FACILITY.  It is exactly what the VA hospitals all across the country are doing.

6 months isn’t  enough time to evaluate if the screening and the other preventative recommendations are stopping MRSA or even decreasing it.  It will take a year or two to know if a program is working.  Of course, most of my proposal for Active Detection and Isolation was tossed in HHS committee hearings.  In it’s place the ESO (Epidemiologically Significant Organism) draft was accepted.  It is a generic prevention program that may help, but it really does not clearly address specifics of MRSA prevention.  The specifics are in there, but  they are obscure and subject to interpretation.  ADI specifially outlines the steps necessary to stop MRSA.  All of ADI was included in my original proposal but it was considered “too cumbersome” for our hospitals.  That’s too bad, because it works when enacted.  It will take at least 2 years to see if this ESO draft and this limited MRSA testing will work.  I am not confident that it will.  One can hope it will……

This work is frustrating.  Advocates and Activists don’t have access to accurate numbers of MRSA and infections or deaths because of it.   Most of us have a family member that has either died or become disabled because of it, or have had MRSA ourselves. Because of our loss and troubles we have come in contact with many MRSA victims or their survivors, but we never have the actual numbers of patients effected by this horrible scourge.   Keeping the number of infections a secret by not reporting them (and making the numbers public )allows hospitals the advantage of knowing the “data” and the rest of us are kept in the dark. This puts anyone like me, who is  trying to improve patient safety with work toward prevention, at a disadvantage.   This secret keeping about data doesn’t have anything to do with prevention or saving lives…it has to do with power and control and elitism.  It also has to do with lack of transparency and disclosure. And it has to do with outright fear.  Hospitals are more afraid of liability than they are of almost anything else.   I did not know the rate of patients who test positive in current MRSA screening programs in Maine hospitals when I agreed to the 7% rule.  Since the day of that meeting, I have written to both of the biggest medical centers in Maine.  One responded but did not answer my question and the other did not respond.  So much for transparency or collaboration.

I have all kinds of time.  I am retired.  I don’t require a paycheck.  I have a home office…my laptop, my printer, my phone  and my lazyboy.  So, I am prepared to keep working at MRSA prevention until I believe Maine hospitals have it right. I do not believe they have it right yet.  When rates drop and our hospitals are safe and infection free, we will all know we have it right.

World MRSA Day, emotional and educational

October 5th, 2009 No comments
World MRSA Day

World MRSA Day

On October 1, my husband Mike and I attended the innaugural World MRSA Day at Loyola University in Chicago.  I was invited there by my friend and mentor Jeanine Thomas.  She is the pioneer of MRSA Activism and Advocacy  in the US.  She works tirelessly on the State , the Federal and worldwide  levels on MRSA Prevention and activism. 

We witnessed a first time event of this sort.  Experts in MRSA prevention, MRSA victims, lawmakers, and the Illinois Hospital Association leaders attended and participated in this event.  Jeanine knew how sad an event of this sort could be so she also interjected music.  We were entertained by a  bagpiper, a blues singer and a tabernacle choir singer and pianist.  They were all uplifting. 

The doctors who spoke were encouraging and progressive.  Dr William Jarvis is undoubtedly the most recognized MRSA prevention expert in the US.  His presentation was honest and alarming at the same time.  His passion regarding MRSA prevention  is evident.  He is an honest expert who is not afraid to tell the truth about the scope of the problem.  He knows what needs to be done to conquer the problem.  This was a refreshing change from some of the doctors I have met and worked with in Maine.  A statement he made about the CDC’s most recent number of deaths because of MRSA stood out.  The 19,000 deaths that CDC claims to be fact a few years ago only includes “invasive” MRSA.  I learned something.  It does not include surgical site MRSA .   So adding those to 19,000 would dramatically increase that number. 

The most moving speaker of the day was Ken.  Ken’s 2 month old daughter Madeline died just a few years ago with MRSA.  While a photo of his sweet baby girl was projected onto a large screen above his shoulder, Ken told of his experience.  It has been a few years since this happened, but he is still obviously emotionally raw over this horrible time in his life.  She had been an underweight preemie twin.  Her brother is fine, but Madeline became ill with MRSA after discharge, and died shortly after.  Ken told us that there is a happy part of his story.  He and his wife were blessed with a baby girl this year.  They expressed their concerns about MRSA to her doctors.  She was tested and she was colonized with MRSA.  This early screening for their new baby gave doctors the red flag they needed to decolonized the new baby and she has tested MRSA free the last three times.   Screening possibly saved this tiny new baby’s  life!

Jeanine has gathered a group of impressive supporters for MRSA prevention with Active Detection and Isolation.  I spoke with a leader in the Illinois Hospital Association, an Illinois representative and others.  She is an amazing force and her event demonstrated that.

It still amazes me how contentious the subject of MRSA prevention  is.  All of us advocates and activists want is a simple cheap screening and the appropriate steps for those who test positive.   Screening saves lives.  The number of medical screenings done every day every year for any number of purposes is astounding, and yet hospitals in Maine balk at  this inexpensiv screening for an infection that can and does kill and maim patients.  They insist that they have the solution in handwashing and other steps.  They do not.  They have watched the rate of MRSA infections rise for many years, alarmingly so for 15 years.  They have not stopped or stalled the infections yet.  But, ADI, the proven approach ,is available and they snub it.

So, because of  I know there is a way to stop MRSA,  I will continue this quest.  My Irish is up.  My father is gone because of pathetic infection control .  I will work on this until our supporters and I am satisfied that Maine hospitals are doing all that they can to stop MRSA infections.

Breath of Fresh Air, Maine Medical Center

September 24th, 2009 1 comment

I was invited to Maine Medical Center for a presentation and introduction on their MRSA and other Multi Drug Resistant Organism prevention program.  I read their program/policy online prior to my visit , so I was prepared to be impressed.  I was not disappointed.  Almost all of the important components of my original multifaceted approach to MRSA prevention, as proposed to the Maine Health and Human Services committee, are in MMCs program.  And, they are successful with it.  The passion of the presenter was very obvious.  His desire to succeed, determination and tenacity with a prevention program has obviously made  MMC and the entire region around MMC safer from MRSA and other MDROs.

Time, money, staff, supplies, administrative support and all the other necessary stuff of prevention has been made available to MMC.  And it has paid off.  The graphs displaying increased hand washing and decreasing infections were proudly displayed at todays presentation. And, remember that active surveillance of high risk populations  is an integral part of their program.   We went to a couple of floors in the hospital to see how they stocked personal protective gear and to also see the number of hand gel dispensers there are.  Their hand washing compliance scores for each floor are displayed as you walk off the elevator.  We spoke with staff members of both the floors that we visited who participate in this excellent program.  MMC has drawn in staff from all departments to participate and promote this program.  There is ownership of the program.  That is the culture change that is necessary for MRSA control.  MMC has a program that they can be very proud of.

As in all things Maine related, there are two Maine’s.  There is the Portland and Southern Maine and then there is “the rest of the State”. or the other Maine.  Remote northern, eastern and down eastern Maine do not enjoy the same resources or support that Southern Maine does.   There are still a number of Maine hospitals who do no MRSA screening at all or inadequate screening.  And many of  these hospitals do have MRSA.  I have heard that few hopsitals in Maine do not have MRSA.  Is this possible?  I don’t think anybody would outright lie about that, but on the other hand, if complacency rules, it is just a matter of time for them to have MRSA.  There are high risk patients everywhere.  Contrary to popular belief, Mainers do travel outside the confines of their small towns.  Also, small town hospitals all refer to larger  hospital referral centers, where there is MRSA.  So, no hospital is without risk from MRSA.

All of this being said.  I am very grateful to the representatives of MMC for having this presentation for the MQF, and the others of us who are advocating for MRSA prevention. It was very generous of them to do this.

  I wish the same standards and passion for MRSA control for the rest of Maine.   And I stand strong that Active Detection and Isolation is the minimum standard that all Maine hospitals must use to stop MRSA.  That begins with high risk screening and awareness.  We have the law and now we must see that it is enforced and quickly.  Delay is not acceptable.  MMC would not have had to change much at all  if my entire legislative  proposal had passed.  Their program is excellent.  But, we all know such standards are not equal in all Maine’s hospitals.  I don’t think MRSA prevention and safety for patients should vary between Portland and their entire region and the “other” Maine hospitals.  All Maine citizens should enjoy the same level of safety.

High risk screening must start now.

Maine Quality Forum Decision, LETS DO A STUDY

September 18th, 2009 2 comments

When my bill passed into law last spring,  there was a stipulation that the Maine Quality Forum would “define” what populations were at high risk for MRSA in Maine, for the purposes of screening.  This task was assigned to us by the Maine Health and Human Services Committee.   I attended meetings for 5 months and I worked diligently between meetings researching this subject.  I presented a solid list of known populations at risk for MRSA.  I gathered  this information from the CDC information and hundreds of other sources.  I never attended a meeting uninformed or unprepared.

I withstood stonewalling, dishonesty, reluctance and downright hostility in these meetings.  I took verbal beating repeatedly and with grace.   Without the refereeing of our leader and my  dedicated Maine State Nurses Association collegue, my pursuit of safer hospitals in Maine would have been much more difficult.  There is no doubt in my mind that they were trying their best to wear me down.  They thought “she will go away afer a while”.  Wow, they do not know me. 

The Maine Hospital Association and their associates, APIC (infection control professionals), and the MQF DO NOT WANT TO DO HIGH RISK SCREENING FOR THEIR PATIENTS.  They will tell you they are already doing it, or it is too expensive, or it is too cumbersome, or there is no need because they are improving handwashing,….my goodness, I can’t begin to complete the list of excuses I have heard.  The fact is that the MHA and APIC have lobbyists and money and they are fighting this effective approach to MRSA prevention tooth and nail. These associations and the MQF are the very people who should be making our hospitals safer.

What this all really boils down to is that Hospitals and doctors  do not want to be told what to do.  Another thing they don’t want is to be liable for an excellent MRSA Prevention program.  If patients have an increased expectation of hospitals and Active Detection and Isolation becomes standard practice in Maine, they will be held to it!  This means increased litigation for MRSA victims if the hospital fails to meet the standards.  Well, hells bells, why not?  Maine Hospitals are responsible if patients become infected on their watch.  They either improve safety or they are liable and there will be lawsuits!

 Maine hospitals  think they are doing a bang up job with MRSA prevention.  While I do recognize that some efforts are being made to stop MRSA, it is not nearly enough.  Why just last week I talked with a woman who had over 100,000 dollars in medical bills after her hospital discharge . She got MRSA, C Diff, and pseudomonas during an over 100 day stay at the local hospital.  She is still paying her bills off and she still suffers ill effects from those infections, but fortunately, she survived.   Another person  asked my son for my contact information because her father died 2 weeks ago with MRSA, same hospital.  So, although they are doing SOME things to improve prevention, they are not stopping the infections.

One  reason for this is that their screening protocol is not wide enough, and that is likely the same problem in all the hospitals in Maine who are still seeing new infections regularly.

Another reason is that they continue to room infected or colonized patients with uninfected pateints. I brought this up at the last MQF meeting and I got jumped on by 3 or 4 nurses all with similar excuses, including one that basically said that CDC says it is ok.   This  a recipe for disaster.  Your local infection control nurse will tell you that “patients do not spread MRSA, hands do”.  Yes, I agree, this is so.  But contaminated  instruments, uniforms, bathroom facilities  and other environmental contamination also spreads disease, with the help of hands.  And do not ever feel safe about the air you breath.  MRSA can be coughed 3 to 4 feet when a patient has MRSA pneumonia.  I have also read articles that air ventilation systems have tested positive for MRSA.  So, without effective air filtration, MRSA can spread that way too.

Another reason MRSA spreads is because doctors are rationing out treatment to interrupt colonization.  They get to pick and choose the patients who will get this simple treatment before invasive procedures.  The arguments for rationing is that there is some  antibiotic resistance, or that MRSA can come back or any number of other excuses.  The reality is that they are playing God in deciding who will have the advantage of simple decolonization ….if it will be you, or your neighbor or someone esle…. according to what procedure you are having.  This seems unethical to me.  If I am having a gut surgery and I have MRSA colonization, I want the treatment.  I will take my chances at resistance or that it might come back after I heal.  LET ME DECIDE my own fate.  This witholding of effective treatment to prevent active infection smacks of the “Sarah Palin” death panel referrence.  Not that I ever believed anything that Sarah Palin said.  My guess is that if any of the doctors who participated in our MQF work group had MRSA colonization and needed surgery, they would be pushing the antibiotic ointment up their noses and scrubbing their bodies with Phisohex frantically and frequently before anybody touched them!

There are many reasons that Maine hospitals are not stopping MRSA.  These are just a few and they are the ones I have addressed in my legislative proposal. 

I would love to see an ambitious investigative writer start calling all of our hospitals.  Their first question could be “how many patients in your hospital have MRSA now?”  Second question, “how many of those patients came into the hospital with those infections?”  Third question, “what is the prognosis for those patients?”   How long will those patients suffer from these infections?   “Is every MRSA colonized and infected patients isolated from other patients?”  “How high is your handwashing compliance?”  “Have your MRSA infections rate dropped or gone up in the past 10 years?”   “Are you aware of the Veterans Administration MRSA screening program and it’s success in dropping MRSA Infections?”   I want to do this investigation myself, but I have observed how close to the chest ANY MRSA information is guarded within these facilities.   I sat in meetings with representatives from hospitals all over the State and I don’t know any of the answers to any of these questions.  THIS IS THE BIGGEST DIRTIEST SECRET OF ALL IN MAINE HOSPITALS.  And the secret is closely guarded.  Each hospital’s representative in those meetings should have very proud CEOs.  They didn’t spill the beans on any useful numbers for the MQF group.

Two days ago, a unilateral and sudden decision was made by our MQF leader to do a “study”.  This decision was made with no plan, no deadline, no consultant, and no requirements.  After 5 months of pounding out a good solid list of high risk populations for screening, our work group’s direction changed.  It was announced, not suggested.  So, all of a sudden the MQF became a dictatorship, not a work group.  While all of the logistics and details of this “study” are being worked out and the study done and the analysis made and resulting recommendations are decided, Maine patients at high risk for MRSA will continue to be admitted to our hospitals without screening.  The expense of this test could be spent on a new effective screening program for all of our hospitals It is bogus and it is nothing but a stall tactic.  The hospitals believe they have won a battle of some sort.  If I thought for one minute that battle was against MRSA, I would not be writing this blog entry.  It is a power battle they think they have won.  MRSA prevention has little to do with it.

MRSA screening saves lives and stops suffering.  It is the first step in preventing MRSA infections.  Patients with undetected MRSA will continue to be admitted to Maine hospitals, and be roomed with uninfected patients.  Infections that can be prevented with simple decolonization treatment will continue to happen.    Rates will not drop.  And after a hospital allows this to happen to you, you will get the bill for the damages.  You will be billed for care rendered as a result of a preventable infection.

This study is a delay tactic.  This allows Maine hospitals to stall the inevitability of effective high risk MRSA screening.  This allows hospitals to continue doing exactly what they are doing now and that is not enough.  I hold the MQF , the Maine Hospital association and Maine hospitals responsible for every single new MRSA infection that occurs in Maine hospitals  while they are messing about with a study.    This is not what was expected of us in our work group…….we need to start screening now…and without further delay.

I will never give up this fight.  It is much to important to everybody.  My motivation comes from my grief and I will continue to grieve a long time for my special father who was infected by his trusted hospital and died as a result.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier, on healthcare reform and MRSA

July 29th, 2009 No comments

The web page I am directing you to here is how CW Speier addressed Congress regarding health care reform.

I liked the way she describes the fact that hospitals spew out these MRSa infections that kill people or drastically alter their lives and there is no one making them change. See the following quote from Jackie Speiers address on Health care reform and MRSA.

I want to tell you a dirty little secret. It’s a dirty little secret about health care that no one wants to talk about, and it’s about medical errors, and we have known about it for decades. The Institute of Medicine put out a report that said there are 100,000 deaths in America every year because of medical errors; 100,000 deaths.

Now, I’m going to talk about a specific bacteria infection that people get typically in the hospital. It’s called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Now we say MRSA for short. Now, the MRSA infection rate is growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, there’s 100,000 cases of MRSA a year. Two-thirds of those people that get that infection get it in the hospital setting.

Now, of the 100,000 people that will get a MRSA infection, 19,000 of them will die because of that infection. Now, that’s a stunning figure.

If there was a 747 that crashed in the United States every week, that’s the equivalent of 19,000 deaths. And if there was a 747 that crashed every week in America, we wouldn’t tolerate it. We’d call on the FAA. We’d call on the airlines. We would stop it. But we’ve done very little to stop the spread of MRSA in hospital settings.

Now, this health care reform bill takes an important step, not a full step. It doesn’t go all the way, but it does now require that hospitals will have to report their hospital-acquired infections.

What we need to do, furthermore, is put the protocols in place so that we can stop these infections from occurring and we can stop the deaths as well.

She says it well doesn’t she?  I often make the same comparison with hospitals and restaurants…if restaurants served up food that killed people they would be shut down.  Hospitals literally get away with murder…..at least the ones who will not change their approach to MRSA and other Hospital Acquired infections.  Please watch CW Jackie Speier and get your representatives to support or co sponsor this bill, HR 2739, regarding MRSA prevention.

http://www.c-spanarchives.org/congress/?q=node/77531&id=9013445

Legislators off on vacation

July 24th, 2009 No comments

In the midst of heated debate about health care reform, our noble legislators are going on a month long vacation.  While many thousands of people are losing their healthcare insurance every day, the debate will stop until our entitled legislators are well rested and tanned. Oh, and lest we forget, if they get a sunburn or a sprain on vacation, they are covered by a very generous insurance package.

Healthcare reform is so needed and so overdue, and yet our leaders just take off and enjoy themselves. Those who oppose HC reform think this delay will hurt the reform act.   Part of reform is to improve the quality of our healthcare by reducing medical errors and hospital acquired infections.  Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s HR 2739 will be part of the reform if we are successful.  So until HC reform happens, not only are US citizens losing healthcare insurance every day, the healthcare consumer will continue to receive treatment in our nations hospitals, most of them having  inadequate infection control and rising numbers of preventable infections. 

Millions of American citizens fight every day with insurers who deny claims because of a pre existing ailment, or any other reason they can come up with.  Millions of others have no insurance at all and hundreds of thousands contract preventable infections because there is no solid mandate to prevent them.  Many thousands of those exposed to MRSA and other hospital acquired infections will die or become disabled.  Our healthcare system is in a mess and healthcare consumers suffer because of that every day.

President Obama continues to work every day, campaigning and fighting for Health Care reform, but our lawmakers need a vacation.  I admire our new president for knowing his priorities.

If just one senator or one representative had to be hospitalized and then contracted MRSA while there, that would be it.  We would have measures to stop MRSA infections.   I wouldn’t wish a MRSA infection on my worst enemy, but it is fact.  Unless someone is personally effected by the horrible infections that can be contracted in our hospitals, they are unaware and uninterested.  It is our job as families, vicitims, healthcare consumers, and others to MAKE THEM AWARE!   The staff of both of Maine’s representatives are aware because a staff member in the House caught MRSA in the gym in their office building, and because other activists and I informed them.  MRSA came close to them, and to their place of work .  They know they are not immune, and that nobody is.

Make your representatives work, the long hard hours it takes, to make a difference through healthcare reform, and to make our hospitals safer.   

Hospital visitors and MRSA

June 12th, 2009 No comments

The question I am asked repeatedly is why aren’t families told to use the same precautions as the hospital staff do when the patient has MRSA.

I’m not 100%  sure I can answer that question because I wondered the same thing.  When I helped to care for my father while he was infected with respiratory MRSA, for the first 6 days after he was admitted, there were NO precautions.  That was because he was not diagnosed for that entire time.  Fortunately, both my mother and I, who visited most often, wore clean clothes every day and we didn’t go throughout the hospital to the cafeteria or other rooms.  We only went back and forth to the hospital.  We did not carry MRSA into the hospital and we did not carry it around to other parts of the hospital, although it was a possibility before we were aware and alerted to Dad’s infection.

I believe an accurate answer for visitors of MRSA patients, would be if you are going to be giving care and your clothes are going to be touching the patient or their environment, you should be following hand washing, gloving and gowning exactly the same as the staff.  The nursing staff should instruct you on correct procedure for this and you should do this to protect yourself.  My family all learned meticulous hand washing before gloving and then washing before we left the room.  WE also wore masks while visiting, after Dad was diagnosed with respiratory MRSA.

Then there is the question of small children visiting.  I think that we need to revisit the days of not allowing small children to visit in hospitals.  Many of them, in fact most of them are either in pre schools or day care situations.  MRSA is common in those places.  If a child is not old enough to learn precautions with MRSA patients, they should not be allowed to visit.  It amazes me the number of patients who feel that the hospital room is an appropriate place for a social gathering.  Small children are allowed to crawl on the floors and climb on furniture, and get itno things.  This is unacceptable in hospitals. These activities are a risk to the child and also to the patient because of what the child may be carrying.

There is no standard approach to these precautions for visitors.  Maybe it is time for one.  Anyone who is going to participate in caring for the MRSA patient needs to use the same precautions as the staff, assuming the staff  is using the appropriate precautions.  Visitors who are just stopping by to say hello should at least wash their hands and use gloves and avoid physical contact with the patient and their surroundings.  And they should always check with the nurse before entering the room in case additional instructions are necessary.

MRSA reporting in Maine

June 11th, 2009 No comments

My proposal, LD1038, addressed MRSA reporting. My intent with this reporting was to make MRSA a reportable infectious disease in the State of Maine, and also to make hospitals accountable for the number of vulnerable patients who become infected after being hospitalized. So, my hope was to have two categories of MRSA positive cultures for reporting purposes, “Positive on Admission” or Positive while hospitalized”. There is a big difference here. It is believed that over 80% of MRSA infections are healthcare related. It is time to hold healthcare providers accountable for the infections people acquire while in their care.
During the Health and Human Services committee hearings, after I made huge concessions on my bill, Maine State Nurses Association and I were given seats in the Maine Quality Forum Infection control collaborative to help make the decisions regarding MRSA and other Health Care Infections prevention. As far as I know, I am a full fledged member of this Infection control Collaborative and so I will readdress the issue of MRSA reporting in future meetings.
Essentially at my first (non productive) meeting with the MQF, I was told that there would only be reporting of the number of patients who were determined to be high risk and the number who were screened. This tells the health care consumers nothing. We already know that about 15 to 20% of the general public are MRSA colonized. What consumers want to know is how many  full fledged lethal and disabling MRSA infecitons are coming out of our hospitals. What I want to know is exactly that!
My father was infected because of lax and inadequate infection control in his hospital. He had no screening on admission and the two other vicitms who died in the month prior to his admission did not have any screening either. So, until they were diagnosed with full fledged lethal and terminal MRSA infections with a clinical culture after they were likely housed with unsuspecting and uninfected patients. I wish I had a way to find out who was roomed with those two other patients, just to see if any of them became infected. My guess is that they did. And so it goes. An undetected infection goes on until it can’t be ignored anymore. In the mean time, unsuspecting and vulnerable patients are roomed with those infected patients, until doctors figure out that the roommate is infected. They become either colonized or infected and then they infect others…on and on it goes.
If the MQF has a true desire to stop these infections, they must know first how many there are. It is my opinion that they already do know and that unless MANDATED, they will never reveal or report the true numbers of these infections. I was told that by reporting the infections the way I suggested, “it would not reflect an accurate picture of the problem”. And I suppose their way of reporting WILL paint an accurate picture? I think the problem is huge and they would have to be brutally honest and report all acquired infections for there to be a true depiction of the problem.
If the MQF does not bend on this reporting, or on the high risk screening, I will work to get a mandate. There is always January to begin again with proposals and bills and new laws. I am way past the feeling that hospitals are untouchable. My family and I have been personally harmed and my father has been killed by hospital error. He was infected by MRSA and it was preventable. It is time for these publicly funded and operated facilities to answer to consumers, and the public about their inadequacies and then begin the work of effective prevention and reporting in their practices.
No longer will consumers sign away their lives on consents that allow hospitals to give them infections and not hold them responsible. No longer will patients tolerate being housed with infected or colonized patients and be put at risk by their hospital for serious life threatening infections. No longer will hospitals be allowed to keep all of this infection mess secret. No longer will they stay at status quo, act liket hey are doing a bang up job and be allowed to continue to kill people in their care.
Maine hospitals have a long way to go before they will regain my trust and respect. I hope to help them along with that.

Why we need screening for MRSA

June 8th, 2009 No comments

I my previous post, I mentioned that humans carry MRSA two ways, colonization and actual infection with the accompanying symptoms, according to what part of the body it affects.

So, why is it important to screen hospital  incoming patients for MRSA?

When we are admitted to the hospital, we have no control over who we are roomed with, how well the housekeepers clean, if the staff washes their hands, or many other safety factors.  We can stay alert or ask a friend to and keep on top of those things, but if somebody is roomed with us who has MRSA in their nose or somewhere else on their body, we can’t control that.  We are forced into living with and sharing facilities with a stranger, not knowing what they are in the hospital for unless we ask them ourselves.  I know of two people who found out their roommates had MRSA and it was only a short time later that they had it too.  This is just plain unacceptable.

I live with the suspicion that my father was roomed with a patient with MRSA.  3 of his roommates had respiratory infections, all of them with chronic lung problems and at least one of them came from a nursing home. They all predeceased Dad.   ALL of them were at high risk for MRSA, but NO SCREENING was done at his hospital and so they do not detect MRSA except when they do what is called “CLINICAL” cultures.  Patients are often 4 or  6 or 10 days into their infections before the difinitive diagnosis of MRSA is made and that diagnosis is made with a CLINICAL culture.   Then it may be several days (or never) before anybody discloses to the patient that they have it.  During that time, no special precautions are taken and the germ is spread with wild abandon.  It gets onto the doctors clothing and hands, onto the nurses scrubs, ….it gets carried to the nurses station and onto the computers, off it goes to the Physical Therapy room and into Xray, to the MRI machine and onto the lab techs box she carries, and around and around it goes.  No wonder there is inadequate control over MRSA in Maine hospitals.

Screening on admission, of high risk patients, will alert the hospital, the caregivers and the patient that they are carrying MRSA.  This may be just colonization, but that is significant in and of itself.  It means they have no signs of infection, but the germ is growing in thier nose, or a body crease, or open sore or on their skin.   And they can spread it around.

Large numbers of colonized patients are admitted to hospitals every day that are not detected.  This is both a risk to those patients and to the other patients they are  roomed with. We can’t continue to keep our heads in the sad about colonized patients.  Both CDC and SHEA, the so called experts of disease control, state that colonized patients as well as infected patients need to be isolated and contact precautions used.  That means a separate room and handwashing, gloves, gowns and masks (as needed)  on or between every patient contact.  Yet, it is impossible to abide by that recommendation.  Why?  Because without screening, we will not know if they are colonized. 

Patients who are colonized with MRSA are at a significant increased risk of getting a full fledged infection.  They are also reservoirs of MRSA for spread to other patients, Healthcare workers and the environment.  Without knowing who is colonized and enacting the proper contact precautions, MRSA gets spread all over the place and there is no way to control it.

We screen, we isolate and we protect…both the colonized patient and the other patients.  No MRSA prevention program will work without high risk screening /Active Detection and Isolation.