VA National Campaign Takes Aim at Resistant Staph Infections

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PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX

October 18, 2007

WASHINGTON — VA Medical Facilities Leaders in Fight Against MRSA Building on the success of a pilot program that reduced a worrisome staph infection by 50 percent, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has tough new screening requirements now in place in all of its 153 hospitals.

In addition to emphasizing its commitment to hospital hygiene and flagging affected patients for special precautions, VA facilities monitor all incoming patients on key units with nasal swabs and cultures for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

"VA demonstrated that dramatic reductions in MRSA-related infections are possible," said Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gordon H. Mansfield. "VA's completion of our national deployment of these serious prevention measures reinforces VA's stature as one of the safest health care environments nationally." Recently published data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with other researchers estimated there may be more than 94,000 MRSA cases a year in the United States associated with 18,650 deaths annually.

"MRSA is a dangerous infection, difficult to eradicate, that can cause pneumonia, wound or bloodstream infections," said Dr. Michael J. Kussman, VA's Under Secretary for Health. "Our ability to reduce the number of cases of MRSA infection enhances our ability to provide quality health care for veterans." MRSA reflects the broader problem of multi-drug resistant organisms, which are difficult to treat with conventional antibiotics. In addition to hand-washing, isolation of infected patients and the use of gowns to prevent spread, the VA initiative focuses on "culture change" among its health care workers to improve awareness of the threat and to make infection prevention a routine component of care during each patient encounter every day.

After a successful pilot program in VA's Pittsburgh Health Care system, the Department began screening incoming patients to its intensive care units in March. The program has been expanded to other high-risk hospital units, including transplant and spinal cord injury as well as general surgical and medical patient wards.