Obamacare and hospital-acquired infections

Published October 22, 2014

Kaiser Health News had a very interesting article yesterday basically making the case that hospitals aren’t generally very good at dealing with routine infections, and so it probably shouldn’t be too shocking that the Dallas hospital treating an Ebola didn’t get everything right.

Here’s a brief sample from the article:

Hospitals’ Struggles To Beat Back Familiar Infections Began Before Ebola Arrived

While Ebola stokes public anxiety, more than one in six hospitals — including some top medical centers — are having trouble stamping out less exotic but sometimes deadly infections, federal records show.

Nationally, about one in every 25 hospitalized patients gets an infection, and 75,000 people die each year from them—more than from car crashes and gun shots combined. A Kaiser Health News analysis found 695 hospitals with higher than expected rates for at least one of the six types of infections tracked by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  In 13 states and the District of Columbia, a quarter or more of hospitals that the government evaluated were rated worse than national benchmarks the CDC set in at least one infection category, the KHN analysis found.

The missteps Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital made this month in handling an Ebola patient echo mistakes hospitals across the nation have made in dealing with homegrown infections.

Hospitals have long had a problem with infections, for a variety of reasons. But it seems worth poiting out that there is one segment of the hospital industry I’m aware of that seems to have pretty much eliminated or at least radically reduced the incidence of hospital-acquired infections, physician-owned hospitals. A quick review online found reported infection rates at phyisican-owned hospitals of around 0.1% or so, or barely a sliver of what is the norm at many general hospitals.

Which of course makes it even more mystifying that Obamacare effectively prohibits the construction of new phyisican-owned hospitals. Or at least it would be mystifying if you failed to realize Obamacare’s stated aim of expanding access to health care was only allowed to be pursued through ideologically-approved means and to the satisfaction of favored constituencies, including the big hospitals that found it easier to shut down competition instead of embracing it and improving their own quality of care.

It would be completely unfair to suggest that the spread of Ebola through hospitals can be linked to Obamacare’s decision to stifle physician-owned hospitals. But it’s completely fair to say Obamacare’s policy in this area is responsible for the continued unacceptably-high level of relatively common hospital-acquired infections, because they opted to side with big hospitals over largely infection-free competitiors.