National Groups Join Calif. Hospitals in Opposition to New SSI Disclosure Rules
Lawsuit claims reporting requirements would be overly burdensome and distract from patient care.
Published: June 15, 2011
Imagine having to report information on all surgical site infections acquired by patients undergoing a wide range of procedures, as well as over a dozen additional data points for all surgery patients, on a monthly basis to both state and federal health authorities. That's what a new disclosure rule in California would require, much to the chagrin of the state's 350 hospitals.
The California Hospital Association has filed a lawsuit to block the new California Department of Public Health requirements on SSI reporting. The organization's concerns about the scope of the new rules has garnered national attention, prompting the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology to join the lawsuit as a co-plaintiff and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America to prepare an amicus brief outlining the "significant burden" the rules would place on its members.
Both CHA and APIC say they support the spirit of the underlying state statute, known as "Nile's Law," which calls for better reporting of SSIs in the wake of a 15-year-old patient's death from hospital-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureas in 2006.
"We're very supportive of transparency, and were one of the early groups to jump in and support public reporting," APIC President Russel Olmsted told HealthLeaders Media. But "most of this data would have to be dug out on a manual basis," since the majority of California hospitals don't have electronic infection surveillance systems in place. The lawsuit argues that this data-tracking and paperwork burden would distract from patient care.
"When you're talking about 900,000 surgeries and the use of limited healthcare resources, I think that's a challenge," says Debbie Rogers, CHA's senior vice president for health policy.
While denying the plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order to block the new rule, a San Francisco Superior Court judge has agreed to hear arguments regarding the suit on June 22. For more details on California's new SSI reporting requirements, see this April 27 directive from the Department of Public Health.
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