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Buono: Infection Prevention Measures Will Save Lives and Dollars

SOUTH PLAINFIELD – Senator Barbara Buono, sponsor of S-2580, a measure that will hospitals to implement infection prevention programs made the following statement at today’s bill signing ceremony:

“Drug-resistant bacteria, the so-called “supergerms,” like MRSA, are becoming an increasingly large problem for American hospitals.

“The Centers for Disease Control expect that one out of every 22 hospital patients in the U.S. this year will develop some sort of infection and that those infections will lead to 99,000 unnecessary deaths. To put it in perspective, that’s more deaths than will be caused by complications due to diabetes or Alzheimer’s.

“Most doctors today will tell you that one of their top concerns when treating a patient is the threat of deadly infections like MRSA while the patient is recovering.

“When I first became aware of this issue, it seemed counterintuitive that staph infections remain such a massive problem in our hospitals, given the advances that have been made in keeping operating rooms sterile and in developing new antibiotics.

“I think that’s a perception that has allowed people to ignore this issue for so long.

“But for too long our hospitals decided it was better to treat infections after they happened rather than taking the steps to prevent them in the first place – the end result being that staph infections are more deadly than ever and resistant to all but the newest forms of antibiotics.

“According to the CDC, the percentage of staph infections in the hospital setting caused by MRSA went from only 2% in 1974 to nearly 63% in 2004.

“On top of that, a study released in June by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology found that the prevalence of MRSA in our hospitals is eight and a half times more than previously thought.

“With this bill, we are requiring New Jersey hospitals to focus on prevention first and treatment second.

“Studies and trial programs both in the United States and Europe have proven that those hospitals that actively screen incoming patients for MRSA, isolate those individuals found to be carriers, and adhere to strict protocols to prevent the transmission of bacteria from one patient to another have seen dramatic reductions in the number of cases of MRSA infections.

“A 2001 pilot program at the VA hospital in Pittsburgh led to a 70 percent reduction in number of infections they saw in their surgical unit. Similar programs at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, University of Virginia Health System and Evanston Northwestern Healthcare in Illinois have seen reductions of up to 90%.

“As is true for most health care issues, prevention is far more cost-effective than treatment when it comes to staph infections.

“It has been estimated that the average cost for a hospital to treat a staph infection was $27,000, while programs like that which was adopted in Pittsburgh cost only a few hundred dollars per patient.

“These programs will not only save lives, they save millions of dollars each year. It is truly the best of both worlds.

“Today, we join with Illinois in becoming one of the first states to require that our hospitals undertake these common sense, cost-cutting measures. Once again, New Jersey is leading the way.”

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