Outbreaks of Hospital-Acquired Infections Increase at Hospitals in Los Angeles County
Hospitals in Los Angeles County in the last 16 months have reported as many as 49 outbreaks of hospital-acquired infections, but county public health officials have declined to release the names of the facilities involved, the Los Angeles Times reports. Officials at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services said such information is confidential.
Within the first four months of 2005, public and private hospitals tentatively reported 18 outbreaks, compared with seven during the same period last year. A total of thirty-one outbreaks were reported to the county DHS in 2004, compared with eight in 2003, according to new statistics. This year's outbreaks affected 196 patients, according to DHS.
The most common infection was scabies, linked to five outbreaks and 92 cases. Antibiotic-resistant staph infections accounted for three outbreaks, and an additional three outbreaks involved an inflammation of the large intestine caused by the growth of the bacterium Clostridium difficile.
The 2004 outbreaks included stomach viruses, virulent skin infections and scabies.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Jonathan Fielding declined to identify the hospitals that have reported infections, saying that such information would not be significant to consumers and that public disclosure could discourage hospitals from reporting outbreaks.
Public health department personnel also said hospitals define outbreaks differently because of unclear regulations.
Hospital representatives said they would agree to disclose hospital-specific information provided that the comparisons are "valid" and that trial lawyers are barred from using the information in lawsuits, the Times reports.
The Legislature last year approved a bill (SB 1487) that would have created a public mechanism to track certain surgical-site infections, as well as those caused by intravenous central lines, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vetoed it.
Lawmakers are considering similar legislation this year (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 5/22).