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Hospitals face new pressure to cut infection rates

NPR, May 31, 2011

What's worse: Losing face or losing money? Under laws in more than two dozen states and new Medicare rules that went into effect earlier this year, hospitals are required to report infections — risking their reputations as sterile sanctuaries — or pay a penalty. That's left hospital administrators weighing the cost of 'fessing up against the cost of fines. For Clark Todd, CEO of Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, CA, there's only one way to go: "If we hide from the public, then the tendency to keep the status quo is stronger than ever," he said. "And that's just not going to get the job done." It's been more than a decade since a panel of top scientists declared hospital safety a national priority. Yet about 90,000 patients still die each year from preventable infections resulting from routine surgeries and hospital care, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Examples include infections resulting from contaminated tubes that deliver food and medications, and catheters that remove urine. Staph infections, which can be deadly, are a particularly serious problem.