‘Superbug’ infections tracking higher at RGH

By Karl Terry, PNT Managing Editor

Roosevelt General Hospital staff members are increasingly concerned about the rise of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA infections, at the hospital.

Director of Patient Care Gayle Richerson told RGH board members Tuesday at their regular meeting that the percentage of staph infections that turn out to be the MRSA strain rose from 43 percent in 2004-2005 to nearly 58 percent in 2006-07. The total number of staph infections has also increased significantly increased.

The so-called “superbug,” essentially a regular staph infection that’s resistant to first-line antibiotics, causes 94,000 severe infections each year with 19,000 deaths, according to a recent federal estimate. Of these infections nationwide, about 86 percent are healthcare-associated and 14 percent are community-associated, according to the Center for Disease Control.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean the hospital is dirty or people are acquiring (the infection) here,” Richerson said. “We have to be able to screen for the infection.”

Tersa Bonifant, director of infection control at RGH, said RGH’s rate of healthcare-associated infection is much lower than the national rate — and community-associated infections much higher.

Richerson believes that may relate to the agricultural-based lifestyle here that puts people in contact with manure, soil and other sources of possible infection.

Richerson and RGH Administrator James D’Agostino said several staff members had recently attended statewide meetings in which the problem has been discussed.

“They’re trying to get everybody together to set some standards (statewide),” D’Agostino said.