September 4, 2008
HOUSTON – The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) is marking three months without a hospital-acquired Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection in its Medical Intensive Care, Surgical Intensive Care, and Cardiac Care Units.
The facility was recently featured in an educational video produced by The Joint Commission, the nation’s predominant standards-setting and accrediting health care organization. The film focused on the MEDVAMC’s bottom-to-top emphasis on preventing the spread of infections, particularly MRSA.
“The key to success is our entire staff’s team approach to protecting our veterans,” said MRSA Prevention Coordinator Patricia A. Byers, R.M., M. (A.S.C.P.), C.I.C. “We have 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.”
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.
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).
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