State health regulators approved a sweeping crackdown designed to stem the spread of infections inside hospitals, a crisis blamed for thousands of patient deaths and millions of dollars in unnecessary medical expenses. The Public Health Council voted unanimously to dispatch state inspectors regularly to hospitals to make sure they are following rules on preventing infections and reporting them promptly when they happen. The panel also approved a plan to issue report cards on infection rates for each hospital and to post that information on a state government website. A hospital that failed to comply with the rules or continued to have an excessive number of infections could potentially forfeit its license.
A state report last summer found that potentially lethal infections contracted during hospital stays could be responsible for up to $473 million in medical costs annually in Massachusetts, a reflection of extended hospital stays and medication and surgical costs. National studies estimate that up to 90,000 patients a year die because of infections they catch while in medical facilities, with deadly germs gaining entry through surgical incisions and catheters and sometimes transmitted by doctors and nurses who fail to wash their hands. Here is the link to this article by the Boston globe.