Rate of HAI Deaths Alarmingly High, Report Finds

YONKERS, N.Y. — A new investigation into hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) by Yonkers-based Consumer Reports found the number of people who develop a HAI during a hospital stay is alarmingly high.

Every year, an estimated 648,000 people in the U.S. develop infections during a hospital stay and about 75,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The latest hospital ratings are included in the report, “How Your Hospital Can Make You Sick.”

For the first time, the report includes information about two common and deadly infections: MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) and C. diff (clostridium difficile). This is the second piece in a three-part investigative series from Consumer Reports focused on America’s antibiotic crisis.

"High rates for MRSA and C. diff can be a red flag that a hospital isn’t following the best practices in preventing infections and prescribing antibiotics," said Doris Peter, Ph.D., director of Consumer Reports’ Health Ratings Center, in a statement. "The data show it is possible to keep infection rates down and in some cases avoid them altogether."

MRSA infections claim the lives of more than 8,000 patients each year in the U.S. and sicken almost 60,000. C. diff is even more prevalent. Each year, about 290,000 Americans develop a C. diff infection in a hospital or other health care facility and at least 27,000 of them die, according to the CDC.

To develop ratings for MRSA and C. diff, Consumer Reports analyzed information hospitals reported to the CDC. The MRSA and C. diff ratings are now part of Consumer Reports’ hospital ratings, which also include central-line associated blood stream infections, surgical-site infections and catheter-associated urinary tract infections. These scores, in addition to the new data for MRSA and C. diff, make up a larger composite infection score for individual hospitals.

To earn Consumer Reports’ very top rating in preventing MRSA or C. diff, a hospital had to report zero infections — 322 hospitals across the country were able to achieve that level in the MRSA Ratings, and 357 accomplished it for C. diff. Hospitals distinguish themselves when they earn high ratings against both infections —105 did that.

Several high-profile hospitals got lower ratings against MRSA, C. diff, or both, including the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Only nine hospitals received higher ratings in avoiding not only MRSA and C. diff infections but also for avoiding the other infections included in Consumer Reports’ Ratings. They include Northwest Texas Healthcare System in Amarillo, Texas; Jupiter Medical Center in Jupiter, Fla.; White County Medical Center in Searcy, Ark.; Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas, Biloxi Regional Medical Center in Biloxi, Miss.; Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon, Va.; Lima Memorial Health System in Lima, Ohio; Western Arizona Regional Medical Center in Bullhead, Ariz.; and South Baldwin Regional Medical Center in Foley, Ala.