US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Alexander Praises TN’s Hospital Corporation of America for Its Work to Help Solve Health Crisis

At Senate hearing on healthcare-associated infections, Alexander praises Nashville based company for study on effective prevention practices

Tuesday, September 24, 2013Liz Wolgemuth 202-228-4729

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"One out of 20 patients, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), goes to the hospital [and] gets an infection, …Prevention and elimination of healthcare-associated infections is crucially important.” – Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24—At a Senate hearing today on healthcare-associated infections, the senior Republican on the U.S. Senate health committee praised the work of Tennessee’s Hospital Corporation of America, which released a study on effective ways to prevent healthcare-associated infections in intensive care units. Healthcare-associated infections affect an estimated one in 20 people who are hospitalized.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R. Tenn) said: “There’s a growing awareness of the times that Americans go to the hospital to get well but in the process, become sick, as the result of an infection. One out of 20 patients, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), goes to the hospital, gets an infection, and in a growing number of cases, the infection is not the kind of infection that can be cured.

He added: “I’m proud that Tennessee’s own Hospital Corporation of America has collaborated with several partners, including the CDC, and published a study on effective prevention practices. Prevention and elimination of healthcare-associated infections is crucially important. We have taken some steps with the Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now Act to make it easier for new products to be introduced into the developmental pipeline to deal with bacteria that are resistant to a cure, but we have a ways to go.”

Jonathan B. Perlin,President of Clinical and Physician Services and Chief Medical Officer for Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America, was a witness at today’s hearing.

Alexander asked Perlin: “I have brought up in hearings in this committee the importance of accountability – we are going through that with dealing with the tragedy of fungal meningitis and compounding pharmacies. …I use the example of Hyman Rickover, the admiral who told his submarine captains in the 1950s, ‘If you are in charge of the ship then you are in charge of the reactor, so if there is a problem with the reactor, then your career is over.’ And we never had a death from a reactor on a navy submarine.

“When we are dealing with lots of different institutions, we are always tempted here in Washington to say, for example… that University of Tennessee is doing a good job of graduating its students in four years …so let’s apply what they’ve done to 6,000 other universities. But we know it doesn’t work to take a good idea and make everybody do it. Based on your experience, what can [Congress] do to fit into the strategy to reach [the goal of eliminating healthcare-associated infections by 2020] without making it more difficult for hospitals and managers to reach that goal. How can we put somebody on the flagpole? How can we make it clear who is accountable for reaching that goal by 2020 so that we don’t have infections in hospitals when we go to get well and instead get sick?”

Video of the exchange is available here.

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