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Injured Brewery Worker, Wife Speak Out About Hospital Infections

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(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

CBS St. Louis (con't)

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSStL.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSStL.com/Health

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Almost five months into 2013, the Missouri Department of Health still has not released hospital infection rate data for 2012.

Retired brewery worker Jim Klotz says he lost a lot when the infection he believes came from a hospital IV ravaged his body, leaving him dependent on others.

“There’s so many things but I’m fortunate to have my wife and I have a few friends who are really helpful,” he said.

Jim Klotz, who lost a leg and kidney to a hospital-acquired infection

Klotz’s right leg was amputated at the knee. His wife Mary says the public should be told what hospital infection rates are.

“I think it’s criminal,” she said. “If there’s a law that states that data should be available to the public then they’re breaking the law and something should definitely be done about it. They should be called to task.

“Your life is totally turned upside down, totally upside down. And you do get angry and I cry and then I ask God ‘forgive them because they know not what they do.'”

Almost nine years before Klotz lost his leg, a young boy faced the same situation.

St. Louis attorney Ray Wagner says his son, Ray Wagner III, 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.

Since January, 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?

Thus far, despite a request under the Missouri Sunshine Law, we have only received an email from the department’s general counsel, Nikki Loethen, saying they’re “working” on it.

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.

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.

“For consumers to find it meaningful, the information would have to be timely,” he said.

A bill forcing hospitals to release infection rates more quickly is currently moving through the Missouri legislature.

Republican State Senator and Physician Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph, who co-authored the 2004 bill says his latest bill would force a more timely release of the data.

“Waiting a year is just outrageous,” Schaaf said, “My bill would say they have to do it quarterly.”

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.

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