Health Groups Take Aim At Common Hospital, Nursing Home Infections

Jan 13, 2014

Hard-to-fight infections are attracting the attention of Kentucky's lawmakers. 

A public health expert recently briefed lawmakers on the growing risk. Dr. Kevin Kavanagh with Kentucky based Health Watch USA says the increasing risk of contagions, such as potentially deadly staph infections and untreatable gastro-intestinal bacteria, justify tougher measures. 

Kavanagh says hospitals need to expand their use of antibiotic ointments and antiseptics.

“All hospitals can be doing it, either with surveillance and testing of individual patients or some hospitals may choose to use the universal decolonization or essentially just treating everybody as if they had MRSA,” said Kavanagh.

MRSA is another name for staph infections. Still, Kavanagh says the numbers remain soft, so creating an adequate statewide response will be difficult. As for the Kentucky Hospital Association, spokewoman Elizabeth Cobb says her members are active. Cobb says many hospitals employ experts who focus solely on infection prevention and treatment. For example, they track patients who may spread infections from one facility to another.

“Looks at the number of times they have been in any type of health care facility and really analyzing whether that patient is at a high risk of either carrying an infection or getting an infection,” said Cobb.

Cobb adds they must report any cases of infection to a national data base.  Public Health advocates say more information will help them win their fight against infections. However, House Health and Welfare Committee member Robert Benvenuti believes the state has a good handle on the problem.

“Kentucky has a regulation on this and that I haven’t heard any evidence that our hospitals are in non-compliance. If there’s evidence of non-compliance then that needs to be forwarded to the inspector general’s office,” said Benvenuti.

There was also discussion about county health departments taking a key role raising awareness about the risk of infections.