SALEM, Ore. -

Oregon does better than the national average on health care-acquired infections, according to the latest report of infections released Thursday by the Oregon Health Authority.

State officials say this is a good sign, but also shows that work can be done to reduce even more incidents of infections that people sometimes contract after being treated by health care providers.

The Oregon Health Authority's annual Hospital-Acquired Infections Report shows marked improvement in several areas:

* Central-line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) in adult intensive care units has decreased 65% over the last five years and remain statistically better than the national average.
* CLABSI in neonatal ICUs decreased by 29% over the last three years. In 2013 there were a total of six CLABSIs in NICUs in contrast to 20.3 predicted by NHSN.
* Surgical Site Infections decreased by 7% in the last five years, which is statistically better than the national baseline.
* Hospital onset Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections increased by 10% from 2012; however it remains below the national baseline.

"Health care-acquired infections can be serious and costly. They are also largely preventable," said Zintars Beldavs, coordinator of the Healthcare-Associated Infections Program at the Oregon Health Authority's Public Health Division. "This information shows how hospitals have improved patient safety over time. We are working closely with our partners in the health care community, as well as patient advocates, with the goal of eliminating these infections entirely."

Health care-acquired infections are among the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States and cost upwards of $33 billion per year nationally. In Oregon, the cost per stay for patients that experience health care-acquired infections increases an average of $32,000. Preventing these infections has become a key element to improve patient care and lower costs in the health care system.

"Addressing the issue takes effort on two fronts: improving patient care and improving patient education," Beldavs said. "Health care providers are increasing improvement and awareness of the issue."

In an effort to spread a culture of safety, Oregon health care providers participate in initiatives that address accountability and improved practices. The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS) coordinates several patient safety-related clinical projects to specifically address hospital infections.

Fifty-two of Oregon's 62 hospitals are part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Partnership for Patients initiative, which aims to reduce preventable harm by 40% and readmissions by 20%.

Since beginning their Partnership for Patients work, hospitals working with OAHHS have achieved a 40% or greater reduction in Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTI), Central Line-Associated Blood Stream Infections (CLABSI), surgical site infections, ventilator-associated complications, and early elective deliveries. To learn more about the program, visit www.oahhs.org/pfp.

Additionally, in 2013 clinical staff from hospitals across the state received Yellow Belt and Green Belt certification in Lean, a quality improvement methodology that streamlines processes, reduces cost, and improves quality and patient safety. Following the success of the program last year, even more hospital staff are once again participating in training for Yellow Belt, Green Belt and Black Belt Certification.

"Oregon's hospitals are committed to working in a transparent way to eliminate all health care-acquired infections in our state. Patient safety is our number-one responsibility," said Manny Berman, chair of the OAHHS Quality Committee and President & CEO of Tuality Healthcare. "This report illustrates that, although Oregon is ahead of national averages in terms of reducing infections, there is work to be done. Addressing HAI is a top priority of every hospital in this state."

Patients can reduce the risk of infection by taking all the pre-hospitalization infection prevention steps their doctors recommend, such as pre-surgical chlorhexidine baths, not shaving before surgery, and stopping smoking. They should also take antibiotics and other medications exactly as directed by their doctors, and ask their visitors to stay home if they are sick.

The Oregon Healthcare Acquired Infections Report stems from legislation passed in 2007 to create a mandatory reporting program to raise awareness, promote transparency for health care consumers, and motivate health care providers to prioritize prevention.

The report, completed by the Oregon Health Authority's Office of Health Policy Research, is available at http://public.health.oregon.gov/DiseasesConditions/CommunicableDisease/HAI/Pages/index.aspx.