California hospitals with high rates of HAIs have not been inspected in years, investigation finds

While California law requires hospitals to be inspected every three years, 131 hospitals in the state have not been inspected in five years, and 80 of those hospitals have high rates of hospital-acquired infections, according to a petition filed by Consumers Union covered by the Los Angeles Times.

California does not require hospitals to report patient infections with certain rare superbugs nor does it require these facilities to report deaths resulting from HAIs. In order to identify hospitals in the state with troubling infection patterns, the national nonprofit Consumers Union looked at rates of a few HAIs that must be reported under a 2008 law. The pathogens included in the nonprofits analysis were methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile. While Consumers Union said the data is not comprehensive, it has revealed which hospitals have struggled with controlling infections.

"It's time to start looking at these hospitals that have significantly higher infection rates and do something that makes them accountable," said Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union's Safe Patient Project, according to the LA Times.

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The petition requests the state investigate hospitals with high infection rates and enforce penalties for safety violations. The state must either respond to the petition in writing or hold a public hearing on the matter. According to the LA Times, the California Department of Public Health said it would respond within 30 days.

"Healthcare-associated infections are a serious public health issue," said Ali Bay, a spokeswoman for the health department, according to the LA Times, "and we share concerns about the impacts they have on patients."

Consumers Union said epidemiologists with the state told the nonprofit they haven't been providing the infection rate information to health inspectors, because they don't want to anger the hospitals.

"State epidemiologists believe if they bring in the enforcers, the hospitals will no longer work with them and infections will increase," Ms. McGiffert told the LA Times. "[The state] is putting patients' lives at risk by blocking inspectors from finding out which hospitals report high infection rates."

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