Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fighting Infection

I just got an email from Consumers Union urging me to write my congressman to urge him to support the HR 1174, the Healthy Hospitals Act of 2007. The act provides incentives for Hospitals to make their infection rates public, the idea being that the disclosure will spur them to reduce their number. It sounds like a good idea (although I can't claim to know the ins and outs of the actual legislation), so I wrote my congressman, Frank Pallone. Here's what I wrote:

Dear Rep. Pallone,

I’m writing to urge your cosponsorship of HR 1174, the Healthy Hospitals Act of 2007. You’ll probably be getting a number of these letters, since Consumers Union has sent out a “call to action” email, but I thought I’d take a moment and write my own email, since I believe the issue of hospital infections is so important.

In June of 2001, my father checked into Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore for a lung transplant. He had ideopathic pulminary fibrosis, and his lung capacity was diminishing daily. We’d been waiting for this for a long time, and were excited and scared by the procedure -- we worried that the transplant would be rejected, or that he wouldn’t be able to gather the strength for his recovery from surgery.

Neither was the case. Dad and his new lungs got along well, and his strength was building every day. Signs were good for a successful recovery.

However, the hospital was using a model of bronchioscope that was later recalled because it resisted regular sterilization procedures. This was unknown at the time, so that whenever my father was reexamined with one of the devices, he risked getting someone else’s infection. (And vice-versa: Whenever someone else was examined, they risked getting Dad’s infection. I’m embarrassed to admit this is the first time I ever considered that.) So despite his body’s acceptance of the new lungs, and despite his progress in rehab, my father caught infection after infection. He fought off as many as he could, but in the end it was too much. He died in October of 2001.

To my understanding, the Healthy Hospitals Act would require hospitals to make public the statistics regarding their rates of infection. Now, I’m not writing to say that this information alone would have changed any choices my family made. Johns Hopkins had the best doctors in the area for the procedure, and Dad would have gone into their care regardless. But I do believe that by making this information public, hospitals will feel pressure to evaluate the choices they make with regard to infection. And those choices will reduce the rate of infection overall, one step at a time.

I’ll be honest with you: I haven’t looked deeply into this Act. I don’t know the ins and outs of policy, or the ramifications for hospitals beyond its intended effects. But I will say that this sounds like a very good idea. So please, take a close look at HR 1174 and consider cosponsoring it. (And if you decide it’s a bad bill for some reason, I’d like to hear why as well. I know a lot of bad legislation is cloaked in the language of reasonable, common-sense solutions.)

Thank you very much for your time and service,

(I'm not on a first-name basis with Rep. Pallone; I'm just keeping my address to myself.)

If you think this bill sounds like a good idea, write your representative too. Here's Consumers Union's action page (although the language of its email is much more certain that the legislation is good down to the details; in retrospect I should have amended my first sentence, but what's done is done).


1 comment:

readyc said...

Rob, well written as always. I think of your dad from time to time and especially after having read this. I'm all in favor of legislation that promotes accountability to preserve and protect we the people. We have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Well, two of those rights are pretty much shut down if we become ill from the hospitals we trust.