On Nov. 16, the Seattle Times launched a three-part investigative series, titled “Culture of Resistance,” regarding the protocols of Washington hospitals to control MRSA – Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, an antibiotic-resistant form of the common staph germ.
The premise of the Times’ series is that hospitals in our state should be screening every patient for MRSA, but the majority don’t, to the detriment of patients. The article has spurred concern; we have received many calls asking about our infection control policies.
First, let me assure you that infection prevention to minimize risk from a multitude of potentially harmful bacteria and viruses is taken very seriously at Valley Medical Center. Patient safety and wellness is our number one concern, and MRSA is just one of the bacteria we monitor and take precautions to prevent.
MRSA can be contracted by touching the skin of someone who has MRSA, or by sharing their used personal items such as towels, washcloths, clothes or athletic equipment. You are at greater risk of getting MRSA if you are recovering from surgery or burns, have a weakened immune system, have tubes in your body for medical treatment, or if you share needles. It should be noted that most MRSA infections can be treated successfully with proper wound and skin care and by using antibiotics proven effective against MRSA.
To control MRSA and prevent its spread, we stringently adhere to guidelines outlined by the state Department of Health and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as other regulatory organizations. Our infection prevention team emphasizes the use of standard precautions for all patients, whether we know if they have an infection or not. We employ vigorous infection prevention procedures, including universal hand hygiene before and after each patient interaction, and thorough room-cleanings between patients. Additionally, patients with identified MRSA infection are placed on contact isolation, thereby further protecting visitors, other patients and staff.
These efforts have been successful in limiting the incidence of MRSA at Valley Medical. Rates of healthcare-associated infections in our patient population are low (0.4 per 1,000 in-patient days), and research studies haven’t recommended routine surveillance testing in institutions with rates at this level.
Please be assured we will continue our vigilance against the spread of all infections to ensure each patient’s safety. If you have specific questions related to your health, please speak with your healthcare provider. At Valley Medical Center, all patient requests for MRSA testing will be honored.
Dr. Kathryn Beattie is the chief medical officer for Valley Medical Center. In addition to its hospital, Valley Medical has clinics in Covington and other communities.