While we are justly proud of many of our quality and safety initiatives at BIDMC, we have to acknowledge that we still fall short in a number of ways. The memo below, distributed to our staff yesterday, contains an example.
Just as we view transparency around our clinical outcomes as an important management tool, we view transparency about regulatory activities, findings, and requirements in the same way. If a regulatory agency finds that we are doing things wrong, why would you want to keep that conclusion secret from the staff? After all, the doctors, nurses, and others are the ones who ultimately must correct the problem, and we trust their ability to evaluate and act on legitimate criticisms received by us.
In a previous post about the Joint Commission, I stated: "If the Joint Commission did not exist, we would want to invent it. An objective outside review of this sort is extremely helpful to a hospital as it strives to provide better and better care to the public." Ditto for our state and federal regulators.
Here's the memo:
To: BIDMC Community
From: Ken Sands, MD
Senior Vice President,
Silverman Institute for Health Care Quality and Safety
DeWayne Pursley, MD, MPH
Interim Chief, Obstetrics and Gynecology
Vice President, Patient Care Services
Chief Nursing Officer
We are writing to share important information about some serious clinically related issues at BIDMC over the past few months. To begin, we will give you some background, and then we will fill you in on what happens next.
What Has Occurred
First, between last November and March, BIDMC experienced several occurrences or “clusters” of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, infections that have affected some of our patients (19 newborns and 18 mothers) days to weeks after discharge from our obstetrics and newborn services. These infections have been, for the most part, superficial skin infections and breast infections. It is important to note that no babies in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit have been affected.
We are thankful that all identified infections have been successfully treated, in most cases with antibiotic cream or pills. We are working to identify any other patients who may have been affected. It appears that these clusters of infection have not impacted other parts of the hospital.
As with other hospitals and institutions that have experienced similar groups of MRSA infection, it is often impossible to identify a singular source or explanation. We have determined the bacteria to be the most common type of “community-associated” MRSA, meaning that the origin of the bacteria is most likely outside BIDMC. Despite extensive investigation, we have been unable to determine how it has spread. However, we have taken many steps within our obstetrics and newborn services to address this situation, including testing our employees and patients and strengthening our efforts on hand hygiene and sterilization.
We promptly reported these occurrences to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) and continue to work closely with them. In addition, to help us with this ongoing challenge, we are working with the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and we welcome their expertise and knowledge of similar situations. Our outreach has included communications with affected patients, patients who we believe have not been affected but were here at the same time as the affected patients, pediatricians and current patients in our obstetric units.
Second, during the course of a DPH visit regarding the MRSA matter on behalf of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), investigators observed instances when our infection control practices failed to meet our own standards. In addition, they had concerns about our system for reporting infection clusters to leadership bodies within the hospital.
What Happens Next
We have received the official CMS report and are putting together what is called a Plan of Correction to show how we will correct any and all deficiencies that were identified. We will make both their full report and our response available to the BIDMC community when they are filed within a couple of days. But as a result of the findings, a more vigorous, hospital wide survey by CMS will be coming to BIDMC in the near future for their own review and inspection of our policies and procedures. Every physician and employee must be prepared to welcome the CMS surveyors and show them the good work that we know BIDMC staff are doing every day.
We take the report on our lapses and the expected CMS visit very seriously. When we make this report available to all, you may find reading the report makes you uncomfortable. It is difficult for a group of expert and dedicated staff like our colleagues in Obstetrics and Newborn services to go through this process. They have worked extremely hard over the past few months to battle these MRSA infections and to re-dedicate themselves to the most rigorous infection control processes.
Yet the truth is any one of us at any time could be subjected to the same scrutiny and observation and we each need to ask ourselves how we would fare in this situation. This is an important learning experience for every one of us as we deal with the patients and family members who put their trust in us.
There is much to be proud of at BIDMC with our efforts to control infections. We have virtually eliminated central line infections and ventilator associated pneumonia over the past few years by implementing and standardizing major new processes. Each year, the outstanding clinicians at BIDMC provide quality care with exceptional outcomes to tens of thousands of patients.
The serious nature of the initial survey does not change those facts. But it does require that we continue to commit ourselves to providing the highest quality care to every patient who counts on us for their health care needs. Ultimately we believe the changes we will put in place as a result of this experience will make us stronger and better caregivers.