Maryland hospitals among dozens in U.S. with low marks for preventing bacterial infection

Hospitals are working to control infections, but C.diff. cases continue to rise.

A new rating from Consumer Reports has found many large teaching hospitals around the country still appear to be doing a poor job controlling spread of a dangerous kind of bacterial infection called Clostridium difficile, or C.diff., even as they make improvements in other hospital-acquired infections such as bloodstream and urinary tract infections introduced through catheters.

More than 100,000 hospital patients were infected in 2014 with C.diff., up about 4 percent from the year before, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center were among two dozen centers getting low marks in the report. Only a handful got high marks.

The report relied on data collected by a government website called Hospital Compare aimed at helping consumers gauge the safety records of local facilities. The information is reported by hospitals voluntarily and Consumer Reports officials acknowledge that those that are more diligent about collecting and reporting could look worse. Large teaching hospitals also tend to have sicker patients more vulnerable to infections.

Still, C.diff. is known as a hardy bug that lives on door knobs and railings for weeks and is easily transmitted on unwashed worker hands. It commonly infects patients who are on certain antibiotics that kill so-called good bacteria in the gut that counters the harmful kind.

Hopkins and Maryland officials said they take all ratings systems seriously and are working to improve patient safety by stepping up hand washing and cleaning programs and judiciously using antibiotics. They have employed technology and checklists to better monitor for and prevent infections.

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