Surgery Centers Faulted for Infection Control

A new federal study, which can be found in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), implies that <"">poor infection control practices are present at this country’s over 5,000 outpatient centers, said The Associated Press (AP).

The study also found that these same-day surgical centers, locations in which minor surgeries and injections are administered, have significant infection control issues, said the AP. Some of the problems, said the AP, include reuse of one-time use or one-person use devices, improperly using single-dose medication vials for more than the one patient intended, a failure to wash hands or wear gloves, and not cleaning blood glucose meters, said the AP.

“These are basic fundamentals of infection control, things like cleaning your hands, cleaning surfaces in patient care areas,” said lead author Dr. Melissa Schaefer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), quoted the AP. “It’s all surprising and somewhat disappointing,” Dr. Schaefer added. A recent hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas—likely linked to unsafe injection practices at two clinics there—prompted this study, said the AP, noting that the two Las Vegas clinics are now closed.

We have long been following issues with infection control at hospitals. For instance, an astounding 99,000 people die annually from preventable infections contracted in hospitals in the United States. State laws are catching up and prompting hospitals to begin reporting these infections.

The recent report is the first of its kind urging more intense inspection of U.S. outpatient centers, which are seeing increases with over six million procedures and collecting $3 billion from Medicare, said the AP, which noted that procedures performed at such centers include esophageal examinations; colonoscopies; and, even, plastic surgery, said the AP.

This recent study included state inspectors visiting 68 outpatient centers in Maryland, North Carolina, and Oklahoma, said the AP, which explained that the inspectors used a new audit tool concerned with infection control. Inspectors tracked no less than one patient at each location through a complete stay and while staff was made aware once inspectors arrived, the inspections were not announced prior, reported the AP.

The study revealed that most centers—67 percent—experienced at least one infection control lapse with 57 of the centers receiving some citation for deficiencies, said the AP. How these lapses affected patients was not looked at and was not part of the study, wrote the AP. “These people knew they were under observation, had the opportunity to be on their best behavior and yet these lapses were still identified, some of which potentially are very dangerous and have been warned against explicitly,” said Dr. Philip Barie of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, quoted the AP. Barie, who was not part of the study, authored an accompanying editorial in JAMA.

We also recently reported that an increase is being seen in the number of children hospitalized each year with dangerous, often deadly, drug-resistant staph infections. According to a prior AP report, the increase in recent years has been a whopping ten-fold and has been cited as from two to 21 per 1,000 hospital admissions from 1999 to 2008.

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