Pennsylvania's hospitals and nursing homes will be required to promptly report patient infections to state authorities and take measures to reduce such infections under a bill passed by state lawmakers last week.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Ed Rendell said he will sign the bill, which unanimously passed both House and Senate within hours of each other during an unusual weekend session held as the chambers work to finalize a state budget.
The measure, part of Rendell's "Prescription for Pennsylvania" healthcare agenda, is intended to reduce insurance premiums by requiring more stringent measures to monitor for and reduce infections that patients contract while under the care of doctors and nurses.
"This will result in sparing patients unnecessary pain, discomfort and longer hospital stays," the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Edwin Erickson said on the Senate floor. "It will improve the overall quality of care and it will reduce healthcare costs."
The bill has gone through substantial changes since it was introduced, after the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania complained that mandates in an earlier version could prove too costly for small hospitals. The group's concerns have been eased by a new federal infection-reporting network that is to standardize electronic reporting by hospitals and regulatory agencies.
Some hospitals would be required by 2009 to install an electronic monitoring system that checks laboratory, pharmacy and radiology reports on patients for signs of infection. About one-third of Pennsylvania's 174 general hospitals have such systems, including the state's largest hospitals, said Paula Bussard, a senior vice president for the hospital association.
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