Delays Plaque Ill. Studies of Hospital Safety; Obama Champion of Law

January 7, 2008

When state lawmakers passed two pioneering laws aimed at providing hospital safety information to patients, health care experts said Illinois was a national model.

Four years and many missed deadlines later, that’s no longer true.

“It’s disappointing because Illinois was the leader, the model state that everyone was looking to,” said Lisa McGiffert, a health care expert at Consumers Union. “But they’re not a model anymore.”

Two safety studies, an adverse events reporting project and the state office that is supposed to coordinate the efforts are overdue or have yet to get off the ground, according to a report in Sunday’s editions of the Chicago Tribune.

The Illinois Hospital Report Card Act was signed into law in 2003 and requires hospitals to report statistics such as infections, staffing levels and the ratio of patients to nurses. At the time, it was to be the nation’s first move to document hospital-acquired infections, and health care advocates said it would allow people to choose hospitals based on how well they do.

But officials say the report card won’t be ready for public release until October.

That’s riling U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, who as a state senator in 2003 was a champion of the legislation and has been promoting the idea on the presidential campaign trail. In a written statement to the Tribune, the Chicago Democrat said officials need to make sure the work gets done.

“Patients have the right to information about the cost and quality of hospitals so they can make informed decisions about their health,” he said in the statement. “We need to be sure we are making these report cards a reality.”

Meanwhile, the Illinois Consumer Guide to Health Care, called for by an amendment to the Illinois Health Finance Reform Act, was originally set for a January 2006 release and is now scheduled to be published this summer. And there’s no timetable for an Adverse Events report intended to look at the worst kind of hospital errors, such as surgical mishaps.

The state Division of Patient Safety, which is supposed to coordinate safety initiatives, was formed more than a year ago and doesn’t yet have a full staff.

State officials say a host of issues are to blame for the delays, including a lack of funding and resources and problems with the laws, both of which had to be amended.

“I think we had unrealistic expectations” for what it would take to get the job done, said Dr. Eric Whitaker, former head of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Some lawmakers and advocates blame Gov. Rod Blagojevich for not making the initiatives a priority.

“We thought we had a fighting chance to get this done because this is a governor who claims to be committed to improving health care,” said Democratic state Rep. Julie Hamos of Evanston. “But the commitment hasn’t been there.”

Hamos was lead sponsor of the legislation that led to the consumer guide.

A Blagojevich spokeswoman says the projects are moving forward but acknowledged that progress has been slow.


Information from: Chicago Tribune,

AP-CS-01-05-08 1801EST

Received Id 1137708123 on Jan 05 2008 18:01

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