State posts hospital infection rates for surgeries

Over the past three years, the state of Washington started requiring hospitals to post data on central-line bloodstream infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia. Now hospitals can add surgical infection rates to that list. 

In a move pushed by state legislators, the Washington State Hospital Association this week launched a web page that posts such rates for all hospitals throughout the state. The mission of the page is twofold, according to WSHA vice president for patient safety Carol Wagner: to help consumers pick the safest hospitals and to ensure that hospitals are taking steps to become safer. 

"In most cases, the data show good results, though there are also areas for improvement," Wagner said in a press release. "Our member hospitals are working hard to implement changes to stop surgical infections, and we expect the results to get better and better." 

According to the WSHA release, hospitals must report on the following kinds of surgery: 

  • Heart bypass surgery;
  • Cardiac surgeries on the valves or septum of the heart;
  • Heart transplant surgery;
  • Knee replacements;
  • Hip replacements;
  • Abdominal hysterectomies; and
  • Vaginal hysterectomies. 

Despite having their hand forced, Wagner maintains that hospitals are "enthusiastic" about the program. Still, some hospital officials--like Marion Ray, director of infection prevention and control and employee health for the Tacoma-based Franciscan Health System--raised concerns about the site. 

"It doesn't always compare like to like, and that is going to be confusing to people," Ray told The News Tribune. She also stressed that the data reported is dependent on the honesty of each hospital. 

"That data is only as good as the surveillance," Ray said. 

For more information:
- read the WSHA press release
- here's the web page
- check out this article in The News Tribune
- read this Associated Press story