SNMH taking measures to keep patients safe from ‘superbugs’
Special to The Union
Decades of antibiotic use — some say overuse — have led to a modern horror story of infection-causing “superbugs” that have adapted over the years to resist these wonder drugs.
The problem comes from overuse of antibiotics, antibiotics used in food and animals, and infections caused by personal contact, the Centers for Disease Control said. The national agency points out that antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs. While they are life saving, the CDC observed that they are not optimally prescribed up to half the time. Over the years certain microorganisms have adapted to these antibiotics to the point where the drugs do not kill them or stop their growth.
Because of this, Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH) takes extra measures to identify at-risk patients and administer antibiotics that are the most likely to be effective while safe for the patient, according to Teresa Adams, RN, infection preventionist at the hospital. She noted that several medical committees are focused on this challenge, but everyone in the hospital has a role in the effort.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be found in the home and elsewhere, the CDC noted, but hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care settings are the more likely sites because that’s where bacteria exist and where antibiotics are mostly used. Nationwide, more than half of all hospital patients receive antibiotics for at least one day during their stay, the CDC said.
One of the bacteria in question is known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), which is now resistant to the commonly used antibiotics that have been used to treat ordinary staph infections. SNMH closely monitors any occurrence of these infections, according to Adams.
“We keep our infection rates low by following CDC guidelines regarding the care of patients with antibiotic resistant bacteria,” she explained. “For example, patients with a known history of ‘superbugs’ will be kept in contact isolation each time they are in the hospital.”
Adams said the SNMH Infection Control Committee is tagged with responsibility for prevention of hospital-acquired infection, as well as dealing with any infections that occur.
“Superbugs are always a concern for us, because infections caused by them are more difficult to treat,” she said. “There are only a select number of antibiotics that are effective against them.”
Hospital Pharmacy Director Duff Stone said that while these resistant bacteria are a threat, the threat is less likely in a smaller community like Grass Valley/Nevada City, with a relatively isolated population.
Nevertheless, Stone said the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee at SNMH takes great care to monitor the success of all antibiotics used, and guide therapies based on that data, “so we can use the most effective antibiotic in any given situation.”
State law now mandates these anti-microbial stewardship programs.
“Basically, we try to optimize our use of antibiotics to help minimize the potential for resistance,” he explained. “By stewardship, we mean controlling access to any antibiotic, and trying to restrict our drug formulary so the medical response we use is aligned with the specific organisms we see here.”
Communication is another important tool used to keep patients safe from superbug organisms. Physicians and hospital staff work with other offsite care coordinators involved with a patient to ensure that information is collected and passed on about known antibiotic resistance.
In this way, the hospital is notified by other facilities connected with the patient when infection control efforts need to be increased. Patients carrying resistant bugs can be placed in private rooms, health care workers can take additional precautions to prevent the spread of germs, and more caution can be used with antibiotics.
“This type of communication is essential to our low infection rate,” stated Adams.
She shared that all hospital employees receive training during orientation about antibiotic resistant viruses, and patient care providers receive additional annual testing on standard precautions and the wearing of personal protective equipment.
“We are doing everything possible to prevent hospital-acquired infections,” Stone said.
More information about antibiotic resistant organisms can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/index.html.
All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.
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