The Joint Commission Update for Infection Control: Commission disputes critics on cleanliness
The Joint Commission Update for Infection Control
Commission disputes critics on cleanliness
Some say environmental cleaning a low priority
The Joint Commission has reiterated its standards require a clean hospital environment in light of comments and criticism at the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's April 16th hearing on "Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs): A Preventable Epidemic."
There is an increasing focus on the hospital environment in the mounting outrage about HAIs, with the situation similar to the "clean-"em-or-close-'em" attitude that is being expressed in Great Britain. Betsy McCaughey, PhD, a former lieutenant governor of New York who founded the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, testified that a hot dog factory is more likely to be subjected to a health department inspection than a hospital.
"If that's true, that's criminal. That's absolutely criminal," said Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), who recommended penalties for hospitals that don't clean up their act.
The main target of the meeting was a perceived failure of leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services, specifically its inability to prioritize infection prevention and get its sister agencies (i.e., CDC, FDA, CMS) to coordinate efforts. But The Joint Commission also drew a wet swipe with the mop on the issue of cleanliness, with McCaughey charging that "an accreditation by The Joint Commission is no guarantee that a hospital is clean."
Much of the "cleaning-and-screening" demands began with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), but two other pathogens are emerging in the nation's hospitals that could cause considerable more environmental havoc: Clostridium difficile and norovirus. Given such threats, we asked The Joint Commission to respond to the charges that hospital cleanliness is a low priority in surveys.
"The Joint Commission, through the use of its standards program, recognizes that it is important to maintain the environment of care in as clean a fashion as possible," says Peter Angood, MD, vice president and chief patient safety officer for the accreditation agency. "Our standard chapter — the latest one in environment of care — reflects that commitment. Specifically, for health care-associated infections our infection control standards chapter also takes this very seriously. We are aware of the evolving patterns with infectious diseases (e.g., C. diff, norovirus). We are concerned as any organization is. Our standards and patient safety goals are being modified to reflect that concern, as is the training and education of our surveyors to watch for these issues during their surveys."
Increasing political pressure
There is increasing political pressure for hospitals and The Joint Commission to address the problem of HAIs. At the hearing, U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (D-PA) called for support of his proposed "Healthy Hospitals Act," which would require all hospitals to report infection rates nationally. In doing so, he emphasized the daily toll of some 100,000 patients lost annually to HAIs.
"The number of people that die [daily] from hospital infections is 270 or so, roughly the population you would see on an airplane," he said. "If an airplane went down today and 270 people were killed, it would be a huge national tragedy. If tomorrow a plane crashed and 270 people were killed, there would be lots of questions being asked and lots of federal agencies would be getting investigated. If on the third day a plane went down and killed 270 people, my guess is that every airline in America would stop flying. But we have been putting up with this for years. Even while this committee has been holding hearings people have died."The Joint Commission has reiterated its standards require a clean hospital environment in light of comments and criticism at the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's April 16th hearing on "Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs): A Preventable Epidemic."
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