Many hospitals will face steep hospital-acquired infection penalties

Hospitals in many states will face significant penalties for not preventing hospital-aquired infections (HAIs), according to multiple media sources.

In Alaska, the state's four largest hospitals have steep penalties, according to Alaska Public Radio. Providence Alaska Medical Center will take a hit in excess of $500,000 for the next year. Fairbanks Memorial Hospital may lose up to $400,000, while two other facilities will face penalties of about $200,000 apiece.

In Southern Florida, 31 hospitals are at risk of losing payments, the Miami Herald reported. They include Jackson Memorial, the state's largest safety net facility. Altogether, the sanctions would run $330 million over the next year.

In Texas, nearly five dozen hospitals face potential penalties, according to the Texas Tribune. Most of them are in the Lone Star State's most populous counties, such as Dallas, Harris (Houston), Tarrant (Fort Worth) and Travis (Austin). Some of those facilities scored close to a 10 on the Hospital-Acquired Condition (HAC) program, which means they had among the highest infection rates in the nation.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services introduced the HAC program as a way to encourage hospitals to raise the quality of care being delivered while cutting costs. Battling an HAI can often add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of treating a single patient, and hospitals can often avoid these infections if they take the necessary precautions.

"We want hospitals focused on patient safety,'' Patrick Conway, M.D., CMS' chief medical officer, told the Miami Herald, "and we want them laser-focused on eliminating patient harm."

Although the rate of HAIs has fallen slightly in recent years, advocates for reducing them dramatically or eliminating them altogether claim that there is still a long way to go in reaching that goal.

To learn more:
- read the Alaska Public Radio article
- here's the Texas Tribune article
- check out the Miami Herald article