The Las Vegas Sun devoted a substantial amount of space last year to an important series of stories that highlighted the need for more candor among hospitals when it comes to disclosing incidents of patient infections, accidents and readmission at the facilities. The award-winning five-part series, "Do No Harm: Hospital Care in Las Vegas," offered a blueprint for elected officials and medical professionals on how to go about achieving better disclosure so that the public could have more faith in Nevada's hospitals.As reported last week by the Sun's David McGrath Schwartz, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed into law five bills prompted by the series that will make hospital activities far more transparent. Key among the legislation is a provision that will require the state to publish information about preventable accidents, known as sentinel events, that happen at hospitals. These accidents can include infections, injuries or deaths. The bills were smartly crafted because they emphasize public disclosure of information that can be useful to consumers.
As state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, told Schwartz: "Taken together as a package, this was a remarkable achievement."
Senate Bill 209 will require the Nevada Health Division to make available on the Health and Human Services Department's website annual reports of sentinel events at medical facilities in Clark and Washoe counties. Existing law requires hospitals to submit reports to the Health Division and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for their analysis but doesn't require publication of the information by consumers.
Hospitals had fought against publication of this information, but there was never a legitimate reason to keep the public in the dark about accidents that occurred at medical facilities. Passage of this bill changes that by giving consumers access to the same information in a format that will allow comparisons of medical facilities.
Senate Bill 264 will require the posting on the department's website of hospital data related to readmission of patients in cases where the readmission could have been prevented by the facility. As with sentinel events, that information should never have been withheld from the public.
In adopting Senate Bill 338, lawmakers also approved for website publication sentinel event information from skilled nursing homes, data that will also be forwarded to the CDC. Senate Bill 339 directs hospitals to inform patients or their guardians within five days of preventable infections that occurred at those facilities. Hospitals will also be required to employ an infection control officer, and have at least one employee per 100 occupied beds with infection control training.
Lawmakers also passed Senate Bill 340, which will require the department to post on the website the names of physicians who perform surgeries at hospitals and surgical centers, along with the number of procedures they performed. This should give consumers a better idea of whether certain surgeries are frequent or rare.
The new laws not only should have the combined effect of keeping Nevadans better informed about their health care, but they should also prompt hospitals and nursing homes to become more proactive in reducing sentinel events that often have dire consequences. The governor and Nevada Legislature should be commended for their action because the legislation is certain to have a positive impact on health care for years to come.
Source: Las Vegas Sun