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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Joint Commission Recognizes DeBakey VA for Best Practices in Fight against Superbugs

July 23, 2008

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“Every morning, we brief our staff and give them data trend updates for bacteria such as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus,” said Anthony Quarles, Environment Management Services supervisor. “We also want to make sure there is good communication between nurses, doctors, and housekeepers.” Above, Quarles (left) gives a few cleaning tips to David Baham, housekeeper.


HOUSTON – The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) will be featured in an upcoming educational video produced by The Joint Commission, the nation’s predominant standards-setting and accrediting health care organization. The film focuses on the MEDVAMC’s bottom-to-top emphasis on preventing the spread of infections, particularly Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

MRSA is a serious form of a common bacteria that frequently inhabits the skin or nostrils of healthy people. Due to its resistance to antibiotics, MRSA is one of the most rapidly growing and virulent health care associated infections, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is responsible for more than 100,000 U.S. hospitalizations each year.

“We were selected for this film project because the Joint Commission team leader was extremely impressed with our staff’s knowledge, attitude, and involvement during their site survey in April,” said Thelma Gray-Becknell, R.N., M.S.N., chief nurse executive.

The Joint Commission surveyors expected to see staff and nurses from the Infection Control Department active in the fight against MRSA, but were surprised to find patient support assistants reminding physicians and nurses about hand washing and wearing gowns and gloves, housekeepers leading discussions of data trends, and nursing assistants suggesting product changes to manufacturers.

In addition, the team praised the MEDVAMC for being one of the few hospitals equipped with a computerized system able to integrate all the steps required for surveillance MRSA testing: sample preparation, amplification, and rapid detection.  

Anyone can get a MRSA infection, but the risk is greatest among people treated in hospitals and health care facilities, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers, with weakened immune systems. These health care-associated staph infections include surgical wound infections, urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia.

When MRSA is introduced into a hospital, it tremendously increases the total burden of infection for the patient and increases the risk of death four-fold. These patients have hospital stays lasting two and a half times longer than the average patient.

The VA developed the “MRSA Bundle” as a packaged prevention strategy. These measures include (1) active surveillance cultures (swabbing performed on admission, discharge, and transfer within the hospital); (2) hand hygiene (before and after patient contact); (3) contact precautions (gloves and gowns); and (4) cultural transformation (staff and leadership engagement).

“We are honored by this recognition of our infection control efforts by The Joint Commission,” said Edgar L. Tucker, B.A., M.P.H., F.A.C.H.E., Medical Center director. “However, we are extremely proud that our staff members support each other and are focused on our mission to provide the highest quality health care possible to our veterans.”

In June 2008, the MEDVAMC achieved re-accreditation in the areas of hospital, long term care, behavioral health care, and home care from The Joint Commission as a result of its demon­strated compliance with the organization’s nationally recognized health care standards.

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