New federal funding to improve hospital safety

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today announced the award of $17 million to fund projects to fight costly and dangerous health care-associated infections.

"When patients go to the hospital, they expect to get better, not worse," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Eliminating infections is critical to making care safer for patients and to improving the overall quality and safety of the health care system. We know that it can be done, and this new initiative will help us reach our goal."

Such infections are one of the most common complications of hospital care. Nearly two million patients are impacted by the infections, which contribute to 99,000 deaths each year and up to $33 billion in health care costs, Sebelius said in a press release.

Infections acquired in a health care setting are caused by different types of bacteria that infect patients being treated for other conditions. The most common culprit is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. The number of MRSA-associated hospital stays has more than tripled since 2000, reaching 368,600 in 2005, according to the government.

Of the $17 million in the grant, $8 million will fund a national expansion of the Keystone Project, which within 18 months successfully reduced the rate of central-line blood stream infections in more than 100 Michigan intensive-care units and saved 1,500 lives and $200 million.

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