CLAYTON, M. (KMOX) — A man whose son almost lost an arm to a hospital-acquired infection says the Missouri Department of Health is failing to tell the public about hospital infection rates in a timely manner.
Attorney Ray Wagner’s son, Ray the Third, broke his arm in a sledding accident on Christmas Eve 2002.
“The infection developed immediately after the surgery at the site of the surgery,” Wagner said, “and required about six or seven more procedures before he was rid of the infection a year later.”
As a result of his son almost facing amputation from the infection, Wagner helped craft legislation that the Missouri legislature passed in 2004, and then-Governor Holden signed into law.
Known as “Raymond’s law,” the plan was intended to rate hospitals on their frequency of infections, to help consumers make wise choices, and put free market pressure on hospitals to avoid infections.
Wagner says now, it appears the Missouri Department of Health has fallen so far behind in reporting hospital infection rates, that the information is of little practical value.
“If the 2012 data for the hospitals throughout the state of Missouri has not yet been made available,” Wagner said, “then I would submit that the letter of the legislation, as well of the spirit, have not yet been fulfilled.”
For several months, KMOX has been seeking answers from the Department of Health to basic questions on hospital infection rates and getting no information.
Among the questions:
**How many patients got infections after they were admitted to St. Louis area hospitals in 2012, compared to 2011?
**How many patients died after contracting infections?
**What is the gender breakdown and age ranges of infection patients?
So far, the Department of Health has not given us any answers. The Department’s Counsel Nikki Loethen sent KMOX a response on March 8, 2012 saying they are “working” on our request.
“Dear Mr. Killeen:
The Department of Health and Senior Services has received your request and is working to gather the information requested. Additional time is needed to finish gathering the information and comply with Section 192.667.8, RSMo (http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1920000667.HTM), which requires the Department to allow providers and others to review and comment on the information before it is released. We estimate that the earliest the information will be available to you is within ten to fifteen business days. The information that will be available at that time will be for the first quarter of 2012. Information for each of the remaining quarters of 2012 can be provided to you, if you wish, as it becomes available in accordance with Section 192.667.8, RSMo.”
Now, more than a month later — and still — no response from the Department of Health.
When told about the delay, Wagner says the slow pace of the information being released is unacceptable.
“For consumers to find it meaningful, the information would have to be timely,” Wagner said.
Wagner says the law he originally helped get passed was designed to give consumers hospital infection rate data that’s only a few months old — not more than a year old.
“It was contemplated at the time that it would be quarterly information on a rolling, annual basis,” Wagner said, “So that every quarter, the information from the prior four quarters would be grouped in a report that would be made available to the public.”
Wagner’s son who almost lost his arm is now a West Point graduate serving in the U.S. Army. His father says if his son came home for a visit now and broke his arm again, they would have no way to look on the Department of Health’s website and find current information on which hospital is safest for infections.
“That’s problematic,” Wagner said.