Washington — The nation’s hospitals are failing to protect patients from potentially fatal infections despite years of prevention campaigns, the government said Tuesday.
The Health and Human Services department’s 2009 quality report to Congress found “very little progress” on eliminating hospital-acquired infections and called for “urgent attention” to address the shortcomings — first brought to light a decade ago.
Of five major types of serious hospital-related infections, rates of illnesses increased for three, one showed no progress, and one showed a decline. As many as 98,000 people a year die from medical errors, and preventable infections — along with medication mix-ups— are a significant part of the problem.
Such medical missteps will have financial consequences under President Barack Obama’s new health care overhaul law. Starting in a few years, Medicare payments to hospitals will be reduced for preventable readmissions and for certain infections that can usually be staved off with good nursing care.