The number of hospital-associated infections decreased in 2011, according to an annual report released on Thursday by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Dr. Stephen Ostroff, acting physician general for the state, held a conference call with reporters to release the report. He is also director of the Bureau of Epidemiology.
The report uses three benchmarks to determine hospital performance: catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central-line blood stream infections and six types of surgical site infections. They were chosen because they are good indicators of the quality of infection control in hospitals, Ostroff said.
Statewide, catheter-associated urinary tract infections deceased almost 10 percent; central-line blood stream infections decreased by 4 percent; and surgical site infections decreased 6 percent.
"One interesting trend is that the total number of patient days (days people are hospitalized) is declining," he said.
The central-line blood stream infections rate decreased 20 percent the previous year. It has now reached a point that it is difficult to continue to sustain the double-digit decrease each year, he said. He is more confident about the data from larger hospitals because of the greater number of patients that they have. Smaller hospitals' rates are influenced by the smaller numbers.
Locally, Conemaugh Memorial, Somerset and Windber hospitals had infection rates that were the same as they were expected to be, with the exception of Somerset Hospital. Somerset Hospital had a better-than-expected rate for catheter-associated urinary tract infections for the second straight year.
Craig Saylor, chief operating officer for Somerset Hospital, said the hospital has had no catheter-associated urinary tract infections in two years. Somerset Hospital established a protocol for the timely removal of catheters. The staff has been following the procedures for the past three years and works with nursing homes and other health care providers to try to have a good continuity of care.
Marlene Roth, head of infection control for Conemaugh Meyersdale Medical Center, said that hospital did not have statistics available because of the small number of patients hospitalized there.
None of the other hospitals replied to requests for comment.
Dr. Carolyn Scanlan, president of the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, said the report is a testament to the clinical skill and caring of health care professionals in hospitals across Pennsylvania.
"It demonstrates that Pennsylvania hospitals are leaders in addressing patient safety and quality of care," she said.
New to the report this year is an appendix that reports on health care worker influenza vaccination rates as voluntarily reported by hospitals. Statewide, 72 percent of health care workers received the vaccine.
"The bad news is that means that more than one-quarter of employees either did not receive the vaccine or did not report it to the hospital," he said. "We would like to see 90 percent by 2020 and 40 hospitals have already achieved that goal."