Beaufort News

Beaufort Memorial celebrates more than two years without an ICU blood infection

Beaufort Memorial Hospital has gone more than two years without an intensive-care patient contracting a bloodstream infection, according to the hospital.

In 2006, the hospital created an infection-prevention team to reduce bloodstream infections stemming from "central lines" -- the intravenous catheters that deliver medication, nutrition and fluids to patients. Those changes came after infections increased in 2005 to 5.1 percent, higher than the national rate at the time of 1.9 percent, according to Diane Razo, the hospital's director of critical care.

The hospital has not had a patient contract a bloodstream infection in its eight-bed intensive care unit since December 2008, Razo said. Intensive care unit staff celebrated the 30-month accomplishment Wednesday with a luncheon.

"It's awesome compared to the national average," she said of the hospital's zero-percent infection rate. "The median nationally that you want to stay below is 2.9 percent."

Three patients contracted infections at the hospital in 2008, according to Razo. That was up from two patients in 2007. The hospital made the greatest improvement, from 12 patients in 2005 to three in 2006, after joining a national campaign that promoted using infection-prevention methods for inserting the catheters, Razo said.

Razo said hospital administrators chose to wait to announce the zero-percent rate until hearing the results of a national award recognizing 10 hospitals that have had the greatest improvement of infection rates or zero infections.

Although the hospital did not win that award, it received one from the S.C. Hospital Association in January for the improvement, according to Razo.

Early this year, Hilton Head Hospital received a similar award from the association for going nearly two years without an intensive-care patient contracting a bloodstream infection, according to hospital officials.

About 200,000 central-line bloodstream infections occur in U.S. hospitals each year, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control website.

Infection rates at Beaufort Memorial began to drop in 2006, after the medical staff joined the national Institute for Healthcare Improvement to develop new procedures. Intensive care nurses stepped up infection-prevention methods for inserting catheters, and the hospital began to monitor efforts to help kill bacteria where the line is inserted into the body.

In 2009, Beaufort Memorial joined Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's "STOP BSI" project , which is replicated at hospitals nationwide and provides recommendations and a framework for patient safety, according to the program's website. The program also helped Hilton Head Hospital improve its infection rates, according to the hospital.

"The effort is big on accountability," Razo said. "We're happy to celebrate our accomplishments, but we have to continue to stay abreast of new practices that help keep the rate at zero. We can't sit still."