Outbreak: The Cover Up
A very concerning article in the LA Times on Sunday looked at the reporting and investigation into infections in hospitals. What they found was a bit alarming. When LA County health officials probe hospitals for infectious diseases their findings are confidential. This keeps others from reacting to the situation, and leaves patients in the dark and at risk.
I have summarized some of the information reported.
Health Officials Reports:
Once or twice a month health officials investigate an outbreak in county hospitals. The public is rarely informed which hospital is involved, how many patients were infected, and how many (if any) died from the infection.
Keeping things confidential (common practice at the federal, state, and local levels) encourages hospitals to be open and quickly report suspected outbreaks.
California hospitals (and even doctors in private practice) are required to report the infection of individuals with specific disease. Hospitals face no financial penalty if they do not report events of outbreaks. In 2008 the Nile’s Law was passed giving the public access to limited data on the number of patients infected during specific surgeries and other procedures at hospitals. The hospital association has tried to fight this law and even sued in 2011. The state committee that advises officials on how to report and prevent hospital-acquired infections is comprised of a majority of members who work for hospitals, while only a very small minority (3 out of 17) represents the public. The committee declined to add the superbug CRE to the list of infections reported by hospitals in 2013.
More Public Disclosures:
The secrecy of these reports is opposite of a modern push to more transparency in healthcare. Consumers have benefited in recent times from access to data comparing health outcomes at hospitals, the fees charged for procedures, and payments doctors receive from drug and device manufacturers. Also, the current secrecy keeps other hospitals in the dark and potentially unprepared about outbreaks nearby.
Other Related Health Topics:
Remember that this information is for educational purposes only. Seek the advice of a health specialist before making any changes to your healthcare.
LA Times “Outbreaks Shrouded In Secrecy” – Melody Petersen