Congressional Record Statement of Senator Daniel K. Akaka
Mr. President, I find it disturbing and disheartening to know that efforts to heal through modern medicine end up creating new medical problems, in addition to those that are preexisting. Unfortunately, this is what is occurring with the rise of dangerous drug-resistant forms of staph that have become prevalent as of late. I want to talk about the potential dangers of these infections, especially in a medical environment where patients are most vulnerable, and also give much-deserved praise to the Department of Veterans Affairs for their work to combat staph infections in their hospitals.
There are many types of staph bacteria. While some forms of staph are harmless, others are fatal. A recent study conducted by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology suggests that as many as 1.2 million U.S. hospital patients are infected every year by a form of staph that is resistant to drugs.
Drug-resistant staph, often referred to as MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, has adapted in response to common antibiotics which have been used to combat these and other infections. Most staph infections arise from visits to the hospital and other health care settings.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking effective steps to reduce staph infections in their hospitals. Based on a successful pilot program at VA's Pittsburgh health care system, VA has instituted a staph prevention program in all 153 of their hospitals. Their prevention system is based on a strategy of enhanced hygiene and culture change among health care workers. Patients are monitored, proven precautions are followed for those affected, and close attention is paid to common sources of infection. The Pittsburgh pilot led to a 50-percent decline in staph infections, something Acting VA Secretary Gordon Mansfield referred to as ``dramatic reductions'' in staph infections, and I look forward to similarly positive outcomes across the veterans' health care system.
It is my hope that VA will continue to improve their prevention programs and share information with other health care providers. This will help VA safeguard our veterans and their families from staph infections, serve as a successful model for our country's hospitals and medical facilities, and improve the well-being of our Nation's citizens.
November 1, 2007