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Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 12:22pm

Hospitals Have High Infection Rates

Georgia’s hospitals on the whole are doing better than the national standard at preventing certain infections patients get from being in the hospital, but seven of the state’s medical centers aren’t keeping up with their peers.

New federal data measures potentially deadly central-line infections in intensive-care units. Central lines are tubes implanted in the chest to deliver medicine. The worst scores are at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany and Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick campus. University Hospital in Augusta also scored slightly worse than similar facilities. The other four hospitals with high scores are in metro Atlanta.

However, Southeast Georgia Health System’s infection control chief said the data is only for the first quarter of 2011 and that’s not long enough.

“When you’re taking a snapshot of a three-month period, that’s generally not how we like to look at things in infection control,” said Dr. Steven Mosher. “We generally look at longer periods and time and trending, so I take such a short timeframe with a grain of salt generally.”

Mosher said the hospital’s infection rates before and after that period are close to the statewide score. Still, he said it’s good to track these kinds of deadly infections because it gets the whole hospital staff involved in trying to stop them.

Vi Naylor, executive vice president of the Georgia Hospital Association, said the key for consumers is not to focus on numbers like these, but to ask questions.

“When you go in the hospital, ask what is being done to prevent an infection,” Naylor said. “That’s what I want to know because it doesn’t matter how much you do, how good you’re at it, there are going to be cases when the patient gets an infection.”

Officials at Augusta’s University Hospital said their higher score in part reflects a sicker patient population.