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Feds Dole Out Dollars to Fight Hospital-Acquired MRSA

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, October 28, 2009

The chance a hospital will have to deal with a patient acquiring methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, while receiving care has more than tripled between 2000 and 2005, with 386,600 infections. And it's only getting worse.

Hospital acquired infections (HAI) like MRSA, which is the most common, contribute to at least 99,000 deaths a year, and an additional $28 billion to $33 billion in healthcare costs.

That's why the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced awards of $17 million in projects to prevent these avoidable mistakes.

"When patients go to the hospital, they expect to get better, not worse," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Eliminating infections is critical to making care safer for patients and to improving the overall quality and safety of the healthcare system. We know that it can be done, and this new initiative will help us reach our goal."

Of the $17 million, $8 million will fund expansion of the Keystone Project in Michigan, which has reduced central line blood stream infections in more than 100 Michigan intensive care units and saved 1,500 lives and $200 million, according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Launched by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the project uses an evidence-based checklist to consistently measure infection rates and tools to improve teamwork among doctors, nurses, and others in the hospital setting, especially the intensive care unit.

Last year, the agency expanded Keystone to 10 states. And with additional funds from the federal government and a private foundation, Keystone will operate in 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. The new funding will extend the project outside of the intensive care unit and broaden the focus to other types of infections.

Here's how this $8 million will be spent:

  • $6 million will fund the Health Research and Educational Trust to expand the Comprehensive Unit-Based Patient Safety Program to Reduce Central Line-Associated Blood Stream Infections.
  • $1 million will go to the Health Research and Educational Trust for a demonstration project to fight catheter-associated urinary tract infections.
  • $1 million will go to Yale University to prevent bloodstream infections in hemodialysis patients.

The remaining $9 million will go toward reducing MRSA and other types of hospital acquired infections.

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