The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently released 2011 healthcare associated infection (HAI) rates for hospitals statewide and Warren General Hospital (WGH) once again maintained a rate well below the state average.
While WGH's rates have risen in recent years, they have consistently stayed below state averages.
Averages are represented as a rate per 1,000 patient days. A patient day constitutes one day of hospital care for one patient. Therefore, ten patients under hospital care in a single day would represent ten patient days.
In 2011, the state average infection rate was 2.22 infections per 1,000 patient days.
WGH accumulated 13,033 total patient days and reported 24 HAIs. This results in a reported infection rate of 1.84 infections per 1,000 patient days.
"We have significant processes and procedures in place to help ensure that our infection rates will stay low," said WGH Chief Nursing Officer Trudy Bloomquist. "Specifically, we look at individual risk areas and make efforts to assure that patients are safeguarded as much as possible from infections."
A WGH press release in response to Times Observer queries cited a project to decrease usage of Foley catheters to prevent potential urinary tract infections and an antibiotic stewardship program focusing on, "narrowing the choice of antibiotics to target specific infections, to reduce exposure to unnecessary antibiotics."
"We also recognize that hand washing is the number one way to stop the spread of infections," the release stated. "We have alcohol sanitizers in every room and throughout public areas in the hospital to help prevent the spread of germs."
According to WGH, worker influenza vaccination rates have also increased in accordance with Centers for Disease Control recommendations. Since put into place, the release said, healthcare worker vaccination rates have increased from 64 percent to 75 percent.
"We work hard to keep our patients safe," WGH Medical Management Physician Dr. Dale McNett said. "It is a multi-faceted effort that literally involves everyone who works and volunteers at our hospital. While we are proud of our low infection rate, we will continue to strive to get better in all aspects of patient care."
Despite the precautions, infection rates have gone up between 2008 and 2011, the years for which data is available on the Department of Health's website.
In 2008, WGH maintained a rate of just .82 infections per 1,000 patient days, reporting just five infections over a total 6,126 patient days. In 2009, the rate rose slightly to .89 infections per 1,000 patient days, with 11 infections over 12,347 total patient days. In 2010, the rate nearly doubled to 1.6 infection per 1,000 patient days, when 19 infections were reported over 11,870 total patient days.
State averages in those years were 2.84, 2.37 and 2.29 per 1,000 patient days in 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively.
As a result, while infection rates are still well below state average, and significantly below the highest state rate of 28.99 infections per 1,000 patient days at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Erie, WGH's rate is rising closer to a consistently decreasing state average.