Vermont hospitals improve surgery infection prevention

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(Host) Vermont hospitals are doing a better job of preventing infections related to surgery.

State officials say hospitals are adopting policies about what kind of antibiotics patients should get before and after surgery and when they should get them.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd has the story.

(Sneyd) Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington has joined the top tier of hospitals nationwide in the way it controls surgical infections.

The hospital has given 98% of its surgical patients an antibiotic, to prevent infections, within an hour of when they went into the operating room.

The hospital’s gotten the right antibiotic to 98% of its elective surgery patients.

And 100% of Southwestern’s patients have completed their antibiotic medications within 24 hours of surgery.

Studies have shown those are key ways of preventing infections. And medical professionals say they’re just good common sense.

But hospitals have to make sure that anesthesiologists, surgeons, nurses and everyone else involved with patient care consistently follow the same procedures.

Avis Hayden helped develop protocols for Southwestern staff to follow. She says making sure everyone was following the new policies was a challenge.

(Hayden) "It was very difficult to get them to see a common way of doing something that would sort of benefit the greater good."

(Sneyd) State officials believe places like Southwestern have strides partly because hospitals now have to report their progress.

The state Health Care Administration collects data on how well hospitals are battling surgical infection rates and so does the federal Medicare program.

Pat Jones directs health care quality improvement for the state. She says researchers have found that the kind of antibiotic that’s prescribed, when it’s given and when it’s stopped are key to preventing infection.

And Jones says Vermont’s 14 hospitals have made important strides in all of those areas.

(Jones) "If not all of the hospitals, virtually all of the hospitals are now performing above the national average on those measures."

(Sneyd) Infection rates are only one measure of patient care that hospitals have to report to the state.

The Health Care Administration also collects data on care for heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia.

Those and other statistics are compiled into annual report cards and posted on a state Web site.

The hospitals’ third annual reports are due next month.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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