The following letter was sent from Upper Chesapeake Health President/CEO Lyle E. Sheldon to The Dagger’s Cindy Mumby, in response to her story “Sepsis Infection Rates at Upper Chesapeake Health Hospitals in Harford County Among Highest in Maryland.”
Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding the public information on sepsis rates that appeared on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website as noted by Mr. Patrick Lovett. I appreciate the opportunity to respond on behalf of both of our hospitals at Upper Chesapeake Health (UCH). We constantly monitor quality measures and processes and are very proud of our accomplishments in this area but are always striving to make improvements.
As I noted in our initial response on June 14, we have been evaluating this report for some time to, determine if the rates reflect an actual higher incidence of sepsis, or if the issue is related to how our physicians rule out sepsis based on symptoms that are present when patients are admitted. The analysis we have done to date assures us that this is not a quality of care issue.
Additionally, both hospitals participate in continual oversight by the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC). We regularly report progress and practices on patient safety and quality to the MHCC. The MHCC presented a thorough response to Mr. Lovett’s inquiry, and Table 3 in the MHCC response is of particular importance when looking at the hospital acquired infections at UCH hospitals. This table shows that the two UCH hospitals ranked much more favorably statewide when our infection rates are examined across 13 different clinical categories. UCMC had the 9th lowest infection rate in the state, and HMH ranked 26th among 46 hospitals.
Patient safety and quality are a cornerstone of our culture of excellence at UCH. In support of this commitment, our community Board of Directors, medical staff leadership and our hospital leadership endorse an integrated, systematic quality and safety program to improve patient outcomes and reduce risk. The key objectives include focused and coordinated efforts to promote patient safety, and performance improvement activities where infection prevention is paramount. We are proactive in our approaches and constantly monitor what areas may need improvement.
Very recently (June), both hospitals of Upper Chesapeake Health received awards for quality care:
The Delmarva Foundation for Medical Care (DFMC), the Medicare Quality Improvement Organization for Maryland, has awarded the 2013 Delmarva Foundation Excellence Award for Quality Improvement to both Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace and Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air. DFMC’s Excellence Award for Quality Improvement in Hospitals recognizes individual hospital performance improvement in four national inpatient clinical areas: acute myocardial infarction (heart attack); heart failure; surgical care improvement project; and pneumonia.
Upper Chesapeake Health is also a member of Voluntary Hospitals of America (VHA), a nationwide network of community-owned health care systems and their physicians. VHA bestows awards and recognition to those member hospitals that show significant improvement in infection rates. For the year 2012, Harford Memorial Hospital won for improvement in reducing MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in humans) rates by 50% or more in calendar year 2012 vs. 2011.
Our Infection Prevention Department has been very successful in lowering our overall infection rate as noted in Table 3 – provided by the MHCC which shows the overall hospital acquired infection in all areas that can cause infection. The Infection Prevention program reflects our compliance with evidence-based guidelines and standards, including guidelines for proper hand washing by everyone who works in or visits either facility, keeping the hospitals clean, and for preventing pneumonia, surgical site infections, and blood stream or urinary tract infections. We also pay particular attention to preventing the spread of infections from patient to patient and, for the past several years, UCH has made flu vaccines mandatory for all team members, physicians and volunteers.
These strategies have resulted in marked decreases in the incidence of infection for our patients and we are very proud of these accomplishments.
Thank you for providing UCH the opportunity to respond to the published information on sepsis. The reduction in hospital infections is of the highest priority for UCH. Our leadership, physicians and team members remain committed to protecting patient safety and improving the health of the communities we serve.
In Good Health,
Lyle E. Sheldon, FACHE
President/CEO, Upper Chesapeake Health