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Nine Chicago-Area Hospitals Shown To Have Significantly Higher Than Average Infection Rates Amongst Patients, Including One With The Highest Infection Rate In Illinois

The Chicago Tribune published an investigative report yesterday on the unusually high infection rates reported by nine Chicagoland hospitals for the year 2009, and the results, released in the newest issue of the Illinois Hospital Report Card and Consumer Guide to Health Care, are alarming. The infections at issue are bloodstream infections associated with the insertion of central lines into patients in the medical or surgical Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at each hospital.

Illinois uses a system of ratios to track infection rates and recurrences. The ratios are calculated by dividing the number of infections at a hospital per year by the number typically expected to occur yearly on a national level. A ratio of one means that the infections that occurred within a year matched the number expected; anything higher than that ratio means the hospital reported more infections than what was expected.

When contacted by the Tribune, all but one hospital, Skokie Hospital, were willing to comment on the results, most pledging a commitment to improving the safety and inspection of the central lines and acknowledging a problem. However, two hospitals, Thorek Memorial Hospital in Lakeview, and Roseland Community Hospital on the South Side, expressed disbelief at the high numbers projected for their facilities, explaining that there may have been internal mischaracterization or miscalculation of the infections occurring within their ICU's. Additionally, several of the hospitals discussed the problem of ICU nurses not being able to freely confront or address a doctor whose actions violate the hospital procedures designed to protect against central line infections.

Below, listed in order of most infections to least, are the hospitals the Tribune identified in its article, along with the infection ratios identified for each.

THOREK MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: Located in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, Thorek had the highest infection rates in all of Illinois, with 22 patient infections and an infection ratio of 13.58.

SWEDISH AMERICAN HOSPITAL: This Rockford hospital had 15 patient infections in 2009, with an infection ratio of 2.69.

NORWEGIAN AMERICAN HOSPITAL: 12 patient infections occurred at this Hubmolt Park hospital in 2009, resulting in a 4.53 infection ratio.

ROSELAND COMMUNITY HOSPITAL: This South Side hospital saw 10 patient infections in 2009, with an infection ratio of 8.62. Additionally, the Tribune reported that the hospital had erroneously submitted to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the number of days in 2009 that central lines had been inserted into its ICU patients, initially stating to the CDC that the number of days was 737; the number of days was actually 2,057.

ST. BERNARD HOSPITAL & HEALTH CARE CENTER: This Englewood hospital had an infection ratio of 5.59 and 10 patient infections in 2009.

MERCY HOSPITAL AND MEDICAL CENTER: This Near South Side hospital saw 9 patient infections and had an infection ratio of 2.27 in 2009.

ST. JAMES HOSPITAL AND HEALTH CENTERS, CHICAGO HEIGHTS AND OLYMPIA FIELDS CAMPUSES: In 2009, the Chicago Heights campus saw 7 patient infections, with an infection ratio of 2.86; Olympia Fields listed 10 patient infections and had an infection ratio 2.62.

SKOKIE HOSPITAL:  The hospital had 5 reported patient infections for 2009, and 3.5 infection ratio.

It will be interesting to see what the infection numbers for these nine hospitals, as well as all other hospitals within the state, are for 2010. We can only hope that the publication of these high infection rates will prompts all Illinois hospitals to update, upgrade and improve hospital procedures and equipment so that these infections don't occur in the first place, let alone in such alarmingly high numbers.

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