HAMILTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which will require hospitals to report to the State Department of Health and Senior Services and to the public certain information regarding infection rates was signed into law today by Governor Corzine at a ceremony at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
“With this law in place, New Jersey can establish a comprehensive strategy for combating dangerous hospital-borne infections,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health Committee. “These infections pose a serious risk to seniors and patients with compromised immune systems. By publicizing infection rate data, and helping hospitals follow established best practices in fighting the source of infections, we can do a lot to protect patients and cut health care costs at New Jersey’s hospitals.”
The bill, a Senate Committee Substitute for S-147 and S-919, known as the “Healthcare-Facility-Associated Infection Reporting and Prevention Act,” will require hospitals to make quarterly reports to the State Department of Health and Senior Services regarding infection rates at their facilities. The report will also include infection control procedures being undertaken at the hospital and specific information about the types of infection reported at the facility, without specifically identifying patients infected. The reported information will then be posted on the Department’s Web site: http://www.state.nj.us/health.
“The public has a right to know which facilities are doing everything they can to control infections, and which facilities have more work to do,” said Senator Vitale. “By publicizing this information, we can educate patients about the dangers of hospital-based infections, and force poorly-performing health care facilities to increase infection-control efforts.”
In addition to reporting infection rates to the Department of Health, hospitals will be required to work with the Department to follow healthcare industry-established best practices, and implement changes in infection control procedures to cut down the risk of hospital-based infections. The Department is also authorized to require other health care facilities, such as nursing homes and ambulatory care facilities, to report infection rates once the system is established and validated for hospital reporting.
“By giving the Department of Health a role in overseeing infection control, we can ensure that hospitals are using the most current data and updated infection control methods to protect their patients,” said Senator Vitale. “If this program proves to be a success in reining in deadly infections in our State’s hospitals, I would like to see the Department extend oversight to nursing home facilities and other health care sites which pose a danger for infection.”
Senator Vitale noted that healthcare-associated infections are a major public health hazard in the nation, affecting between five to ten percent of patients hospitalized each year, and resulting in two million infections and 90,000 deaths. Treatment for hospital-related infections is estimated to cost an additional $4.5 to $5.7 billion annually in health care costs.
Senator Vitale added that the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended adopting this legislation as a model for other states to follow, in order to increase patient awareness and focus on infection prevention procedures.
“Infections associated with healthcare facilities carry a huge mortality rate, and cost the taxpayers of New Jersey millions in added health care costs,” said Senator Vitale. “While we will never be able to eliminate the dangers associated with surgery or long-term hospital stays, we can do a lot more to protect health care consumers from potentially deadly infections. With this new law, New Jersey is positioning itself as a national leader in infection control, and I hope many more states will soon follow suit, to establish a nationwide trend to safer hospital stays.”
The bill was approved by both the Senate and the Assembly in June.