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How Safe is Your Hospital? NV Legislation Addresses the Issues

April 12, 2011

CARSON CITY, Nev. - Nevadans could find out a whole lot more about infection rates and other safety issues at local hospitals and nursing homes, with five bills on such matters up for discussion today in the Legislature. State Senator Shirley Breeden of District 5, Clark County, is sponsoring three of them, and she's drawing on personal experience. She has a stepfather who she says was released too early from care and ended up back in the hospital with congestive heart failure.

One of the measures would require that hospitals and skilled nursing homes tell patients more about so-called "sentinel events," such as the risk of getting an infection at a particular hospital.

"We're asking hospitals to post information about the different types of infections, and the number of infections. "

Barry Gold, director of government relations with AARP Nevada, says one bill being discussed would give health-care consumers valuable information about the doctors they select to perform their surgeries, such as how often he or she has performed that procedure.

"We've heard that practice makes perfect, and doctors 'practice' the art of medicine. So, don't you want to know how much practice your surgeon's had, and how much he's perfected his skills?"

Sen. Breeden says there will always be times when hospitals get busy or are under-staffed, at least for a time. That's why she says she is pushing for a requirement for dedicated infection prevention specialists.

"You have to have folks be accountable and, because the infection rate is so rampant, it seems, you need to dedicate someone to that area."

Under current law, Nevadans can find out the total number of hospital-related infections for the state, but there is no handy way to determine the infection rate at a particular hospital. In past years, the health-care industry has fought such transparency measures, but Sen. Breeden says this year lobbyists have indicated only minor technical concerns and say they will accept some changes.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee is expected to take up the bills at 11:00 a.m. They are SB 209, 264, 338, 339, and 340.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV