Infection rates take center stage in SEIU, Stanford fight

Stanford (Calif.) Hospital union workers on Tuesday said the hospital's poor infection control practices jeopardize patient and worker safety, reports The Mercury News.

Members of the union — Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West — also released a report citing federal data to highlight patient safety and infection control concerns at the hospital.

Here are seven things to know.

1. CMS penalized Stanford Health Care with a 1 percent reimbursement decrease in 2016 and 2017 for having high hospital-acquired infection rates in 2013 and 2014. The health system was one of about 750 other hospital networks penalized by CMS in 2016 and 2017 for poor infection rates.

2. State data showed cases of Clostridium difficile per 1,000 patient days increased from 0.30 in 2010 to 1.05 in 2011, according to the union. In 2014, cases jumped to 1.38 per 1,000 patient days.

3. Union workers also cited state data showing patient deaths from intestinal bacteria contracted at the hospital increased from 12 in 2011 to 26 in 2014.

4. The union claims hospital housekeepers and janitors are understaffed and not permitted enough time to properly sanitize a room in between patients.

"The hospital needs to get its priorities in line so patients and workers aren't afraid of walking in and getting infected," Arun Kumar, a housekeeper at the hospital, said in a statement cited by The Mercury News.

5. Salyna Nevarez, a phlebotomist at Stanford Hospital, said she's heard of numerous cases where hospital workers needed to be tested for tuberculosis after they weren't informed the patient they were handling had the bacterial disease. Ms. Navarez also told The Mercury News not all patients with C. diff have signage outside their rooms informing staff members of the infection.

"All of this can be prevented," Ms. Nevarez told The Mercury News. "But it's 'Hurry up. We gotta go, we gotta go.' Because of understaffing, lots of corners are getting cut for infection control."

6. Ann Weinacker, MD, associate CMO of patient care services at Stanford Health Care, told The Mercury Newsthe data featured in the union's report is outdated and disputed the union's claims that housekeepers are understaffed. The hospital's infection rates have improved since 2014 and are now better than the national benchmark, according to Dr. Weinacker. A Stanford Health Care spokeswoman told Becker's via email that the health system monitors the results of its infection control improvement efforts on an ongoing basis using the CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network database, which updates information monthly, instead of relying on delayed published data.

“As one of the nation’s top ranked hospitals for quality measures such as high patient survival and low infection rates, we take the safety of our patients and our employees very seriously," Stanford Health Care said in a statement emailed to Becker's. "Through our escalation policy, all employees are encouraged to share concerns through our established channels that are empowered to investigate and, when warranted, take meaningful action."

7. Stanford Health Care also referred to the union's report as a bargaining tactic to acquire a new contract for its membership, according to the emailed statement.

"While our door is open and we've agreed to meet with represented employees about these issues, we feel that a more productive use of the union’s time would be to sit down collaboratively and constructively at the bargaining table to get a contract that provides improvements for our SEIU-UHW-represented employees," Stanford Health Care said in the statement.

Editor's note: This article was updated June 13.

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