Consumer Reports Lists St. John’s Mercy Hospital Among the Top Hospitals Nationwide at Averting Bloodstream Infections

February 8, 2010

The current issue of Consumer Reports lists St. John’s Mercy Hospital as a top hospital nationwide at keeping patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) from contracting life-threatening infections linked to the presence of central (intravenous) lines. 

“The Consumer Reports article highlights what we all know to be true; that the quality of care and service and St. John's Mercy Hospital is top notch,” said Dr. Thomas “Tom” Riechers, chief of staff. “It is a testament to the dedication of all the members of our medical staff and the excellent nurses on our team.”

Phyllis Cassette, RN, CIC, manager of infection prevention and patient safety, added, “The report reaffirms how we’re doing everything possible to prevent infections and that the risk of infection at our hospital is almost nil.”

A central line is a long, flexible catheter that is threaded through a vein that leads to a large blood vessel just outside the heart. ICU patients may be placed on a central line to receive nutrition, medication and fluids. Patients on a central line are vulnerable to blood-born infections because the site of the catheter forms an opening in the skin.

“Any time people have open wounds, intravenous lines or any type of catheter, they are at risk for infection,” said Jeanette Holtmeyer, RN, BSN, performance improvement coordinator and infection prevention specialist at St. John’s Mercy Hospital. “The central line makes patients more vulnerable because, if an infection were to enter the site, it could move directly into the bloodstream, making the patient ill, and sometimes very seriously ill.”

The magazine article states:

Our study focuses on one of the most dreaded types of the approximately 1.7 million infections that occur each year in U.S. hospitals. They are bloodstream infections introduced through the large intravenous catheters that deliver medication, nutrition, and fluids to patients in intensive care. These so-called central-line infections account for 15 percent of all hospital infections but are responsible for at least 30 percent of the 99,000 annual hospital-infection-related deaths, according to the best estimates available. Even for those who survive, a central-line infection means weeks or months of debilitating treatments and side effects.

It also states that St. John’s Mercy Hospital has gone 6,744 central line days with no such infections. A “central line day” is calculated by how many patients in a day are using a central line.

“What that means is we’ve had 6,744 incidents of a central line in use and no infections. Most hospitals don’t have numbers as good as that,” Holtmeyer said. “Each year we do 800 to 850 central line days. In calendar time, we’ve gone eight years without an infection, which is tremendous.”

The Institute for Health Care Improvement developed a program called the “100,000 Lives Campaign,” which is focused on improving health care in several areas including central line related infections. 

“Central line related infections can be decreased and occasionally eliminated by implementing a series of interdependent, scientifically grounded steps collectively called a bundle,” said Steven Trottier, MD, FCCM, the director of the Intensivist program at St. John’s Mercy Hospital. Intensivists work in the hospital and treat critically ill or injured patients in the ICU. “The key to St. John's Mercy Hospital’s success regarding the absence of central line related infections is the consistent approach to applying the central line bundle.”    

Holtmeyer said procedures for starting, caring for and ending central lines at St. John’s Mercy Hospital follow recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“From start to finish, we have procedures in place for a sterile environment, and we have an expert, professional staff that follows those procedures,” Holtmeyer said. “Our intensivists, hospitalists, emergency department physicians, surgeons and nurses all are educated on all the newest recommendations and safeguards for the placement and care of central lines.”

Training regarding central lines is completed annually and also when the CDC introduces new recommendations.

Consumer Reports is a publication of Consumers Union. Consumers Union is an expert, independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just and safe marketplace for all consumers. The organization was founded in 1936.

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