Surprise inspections to begin at Washington hospitals
State health regulators will conduct surprise inspections at Washington hospitals in an effort to strengthen infection control and patient-safety standards under a new law signed today by Gov. Chris Gregoire. Hospitals had previously received four weeks' notice
Seattle Times staff reporter
State health regulators will conduct surprise inspections at Washington hospitals in an effort to strengthen infection control and patient-safety standards under a new law signed Tuesday by Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Hospitals had previously received four weeks' notice, including the exact hour of the regulators' arrival.
Additionally, hospitals must screen at-risk patients for a potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant germ called MRSA, which has reached epidemic levels in this state and nationally.
The twin measures, sponsored by Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy, were spurred by "Culture of Resistance," a Seattle Times investigation published in November that showed how hospitals have often ignored steps to control MRSA. Six out of seven people infected with MRSA contract it at a health-care facility.
The Times' series reported that some Washington hospitals did makeovers just before the state inspections, adding staffers and, in some cases, hiring extra cleaners to disinfect beds and equipment.
Surprise inspections will begin in August. Hospitals must begin screening for MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, by Jan. 1, 2010.
Hospitals will be required to screen high-risk and intensive-care patients within the first 24 hours. Hospitals also will have to notify patients of a MRSA diagnosis and provide education on treatment and prevention.
Screening is painless and inexpensive. A nasal swab costs about $20. Similar tests are mandated in California, Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Washington hospitals also must disclose isolation policies to patients, according to the law. Some hospitals that do not have enough private rooms routinely pair infected patients with noninfected patients.
Michael J. Berens: 206-464-2288 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 09:46 AM
Exxon Mobil wins ruling in Alaska oil spill case
NEW - 7:51 AM
Longview man says he was tortured with hot knife
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.