C-diff: Hospitals' New Health Threat
Though avian flu has grabbed the majority of health-related media headlines in recent months, some health professionals say more attention should be paid to the ongoing problems of hospital-acquired infections.
A report, “Unnecessary Deaths: The Human and Financial Costs for Hospital Infections,” released in January by the Committee to Reduce Infectious Deaths (RID) and the National Center for Policy Analysis, outlines the many ways hospital-acquired infections affect the nation.
According to the report, infections contracted in hospitals are the fourth largest killer in America — every year, 2 million patients contract an infection in the hospital and an estimated 103,000 die as a result. That’s as many deaths as from AIDS, breast cancer and auto accidents combined.
Hospital-acquired infections are a growing danger, according to Betsy McCaughey, Ph. D., chairman of RID. “Already, one out of every 20 patients contracts an infection in the hospital,” she said. “The danger is getting worse because increasingly, these infections cannot be cured with commonly used antibiotics.”
One bacteria that is spreading rapidly in hospitals and elsewhere is Clostridium difficile, or C-diff, a bacterial illness spread by fecal spores that is most commonly found in people on antibiotics. It causes diarrhea and can lead to a type of intestinal colitis.
Many types of antibiotics kill other bacteria in the colon, so C-diff levels increase in those patients. Non-traditional patients, or those not taking antibiotics, are now being affected by C-diff, a trend that concerns health professionals because it points to the bacteria’s growing virulence.
In December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 33 cases of C-diff in otherwise healthy individuals from Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey and New Hampshire.
One person who contracted it died. Most said they had not been to the hospital in the three months before getting sick and eight said they had not taken antibiotics during that time.
Despite its presence in otherwise healthy individuals, C-diff remains a major problem in hospitals. At one Canadian hospital, C-diff was blamed for 100 deaths over 18 months, beginning in July 2003.
C-diff spores are difficult to kill with traditional cleaners, but McCaughey said there is no reason facilities, including hospitals, shouldn’t be able to get rid of the spores by washing them down the drain.
“There’s a difference between killing and removing,” said McCaughey. “Instead of just spraying and wiping, you need to ensure that you drench and clean thoroughly and then wash it away. That’s the same reason why healthcare workers should be using soap and water, not these waterless hand cleaners when they are dealing in an environment where C-diff is a problem.”
Another infection that is easily contracted in hospitals is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
RID’s report notes that in 1974, 2 percent of staph infections were MRSA. By 1995 that number had climbed to 22 percent, and in 2003, the percentage of MRSA staph infections was 57 percent.
However, the report has good news about the fight against hospital-acquired infections, especially from Europe. “Denmark, Holland and Finland once faced similar rates [of hospital-acquired MRSA infections], but brought them down below one percent,” the report reads. “How? Through rigorous hand hygiene, [and] meticulous cleaning of equipment and rooms between patient use…”
“Unnecessary Deaths” features a few U.S. case studies that demonstrate reduced infection rates through similar preventative measures.
One of the best preventative measures is testing incoming patients to determine who is carrying the bacteria to ensure the bacteria are not spread to other patients.
Most hospitals in the United States do not test incoming patients for staph and other bacteria.
There are very few regulations as far as a “report card” requirement. McCaughey and others at RID would like to see that change.
The federal government does not have strict regulations regarding steps hospitals should take to maintain an infection-free environment, but legislatures in Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia and New York recently passed laws requiring hospitals to provide the public with infection report cards. Legislatures in a number of other states are also considering mandating similar reports.
Home Depot Strengthens Jan/San Presence
Home Depot, Atlanta, recently acquired Hughes Supply Inc., Orlando, Fla., for a total of $3.47 billion, including the payment of $46.50 per outstanding share and the assumption of $285 million in debt.
Hughes Supply will become a part of Home Depot Supply, a division catering to the professional construction, maintenance, repair and remodel customer. The acquisition more than doubles the size of Home Depot Supply, creating projected combined sales of about $12 billion in 2006.
Hughes is one of the largest diversified wholesale distributors of construction, repair and maintenance-related products in the country.
“Hughes Supply, our largest acquisition thus far, will accelerate the execution of The Home Depot Supply strategy of repeating in the professional space the same type of market transformation The Home Depot pioneered and executed in the do-it-yourself retail space,” Joe DeAngelo, executive vice president of The Home Depot Supply said in a press release.
In addition to expanding its presence in the jan/san market with the acquisition of Hughes, Home Depot also recently acquired Chem-Dry, the Logan, Utah-based franchisor of the world’s largest carpet and upholstery cleaning service provider.
February 28 Deadline Set For Feedback On LEED-EB
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is reviewing the content of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) for possible revisions and clarifications. To have the first round of revisions ready for the USGBC’s Conference in November, comments must be made by February 28.
Stephen Ashkin, president of the Ashkin Group, Bloomington, Ind., has developed a Web site, www.destinationgreen.com/LEED/leedcreditlist.html, for gathering comments and ideas on LEED-EB from jan/san industry professionals.
Optimism High Among Small Businesses
According to a report from the National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation, small business owners are generally optimistic about 2006. Some of the report’s findings about 2005 include:
• The number of small business owners planning to add to their inventories rose to a net 9 percent in December.
• Nearly half got new equipment; one-fourth got new vehicles; 16 percent bought fixtures and furniture; 15 percent enhanced facilities; and 8 percent acquired new land or buildings.
• A net 12 percent expect conditions to improve over the next six months.
• Of the 21 percent of businesses that reported higher earnings, 67 percent attributed it to stronger sales, and 10 percent said it was due to higher prices.
• Lower earnings as compared to the previous quarter were due to: weaker sales (34 percent); materials costs (20 percent); sales price reductions (9 percent); more expensive insurance (6 percent); higher taxes/regulatory costs (3 percent); and other factors (28 percent).
ISSA To Develop Industry ‘Quality Management’ Standard
ISSA, Lincolnwood, Ill., recently launched a consensus-based effort to create a new “Quality Management” standard for all building service contractors (BSCs) and in-house providers.
The standard will serve as a guide for companies to ensure their systems and processes are delivering quality services to their customers.
Beginning in mid-February, ISSA standards committees will work with related associations and certification programs to draft a general framework for the standard.
The new standard will be based on universally accepted management principals and will allow flexibility in meeting the standard’s parameters. It will not require the use of specific cleaning processes or products.
The ultimate goal of the project, according to ISSA, is to help in-house purchasers easily identify quality and well managed BSCs and help in-house departments better communicate their value and effectiveness.
Revised Set Of Requirements Proposed For Hand Cleaners
The Environmental Choice Program (ECP), Canada’s ecolabelling program, and Green Seal, a U.S.-based non-profit agency that identifies and promotes “green” products and services, recently proposed a revised set of labeling requirements for hand cleaners. The requirements would replace the previous ECP Certification Criteria Document that was published in 1997.
Certification by Green Seal and use of the ECP’s “EcoLogo” will be based on proof of:
• Limited toxicity for aquatic and other organisms
• Limits on ingredients that are likely to contribute to environmental and health impacts
• Limited waste and resource use
The list of certification requirements are up for public comment until February 20.
NAW Book Tackles Sales Force Productivity
A new book from the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), called “Restructuring the Distribution Sales Effort for Maximum Productivity,” guides distributors through the process of evaluating new sales force models that will lead to higher profitability.
The book is based on five years of research, writing and consulting by authors Scott Benfield and Rich Vurva. Each chapter of the book deals with subjects that distributors will face in evaluating new sales force models and answers several specific questions with distributor examples.
Report Critical Of Eminent Domain Rulings
The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council recently released a report outlining the dangers of abuse of eminent domain power by local governments.
“Under Attack: Small Business Faces the Abuse of Eminent Domain,” by SBE Council chief economist Raymond J. Keating, details what can happen when eminent domain is used improperly.
The SBE Council’s position is that last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain is a potential threat to property owners, particularly residential and small business properties.
The Constitution was written to limit the government’s power to take property for “public uses,” such as roads, parks and public buildings, or “public purpose,” like railroads and utility lines. In June, however, the court ruled 5-4 to allow local governments to seize private property for “economic development.”
The SBE Council’s report criticizes the court’s ruling, and the effect it can have on small businesses, which could be subject to seizure because the local government believes the property would better serve the economic base of the community. Many times those properties are replaced by revenue-creating ventures such as a shopping malls.
“Homes and small businesses — indeed, the ‘American Dream’ — stand vulnerable to being bulldozed by politicians and government bureaucrats coupled with powerful special interests,” Keating said in the report. The report includes an outline of the Constitution as it applies to property rights, thoughts on the ruling itself, opinions on how this will affect economics, and examples of alleged eminent domain abuse.
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
Carroll Co., Garland, Texas, a private brand developer for multi-unit distribution, recently acquired Cello Corp., Havre de Grace, Md., from The Sherwin-Williams Co.
Technical Concepts, Mundelein, Ill., a designer and manufacturer of washroom dispensing systems, recently acquired Bentfield Intl., BV, a Dutch manufacturer that specializes in washroom systems.
Combined, the two companies will operate five facilities, have more than 500 associates and 2,000 independent distributor locations.
Rose’s Southwest Papers Inc., an Albuquerque, N.M.-based paper converting plant, recently purchased a $30 million paper mill northeast of Orlando, Fla. The company has about 260 employees and annual sales of more than $70 million.
SYSCO Food Services of Jamestown LLC, Falconer, N.Y., recently acquired the paper, packaging and cleaning supplies business of Hy-Grade, a 60-year-old Tonawanda, N.Y.-based distributor of paper and janitorial supplies.
Service Office Supply Corp., Amherst, N.Y., bought Hy-Grade’s office supplies and furniture divisions.
The divisions acquired by SYSCO will be consolidated with the Jamestown company, but Hy-Grade will retain office space in Tonawanda. SYSCO will employ about half of Hy-Grade’s current employees.
HydraLogic Systems, Ecolo Odour Control Systems and NuTech Environmental have merged under a new division of HydraLogic Systems called HLS Ecolo.
The merger of these odor control companies will unite Ecolo’s worldwide distribution network and NuTech’s line of products with HydraLogic System’s formulations and product development capabilities.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently revealed improvements to its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system. In addition to a streamlined documentation and certification process that is 100 percent online, other process improvements include: allowing project teams to submit documentation in two phases — design and construction; aligning documentation requirements with existing instruments of service; and taking steps to make customer feedback an integral part of improved customer service.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently named the first corporations to achieve voluntary greenhouse gas reduction goals set through the EPA’s Climate Leaders Program. S.C. Johnson was one of the companies — it met its goal to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 23 percent per pound of product.
As part of the Climate Leaders program, EPA is partnering with 79 corporations and 46 companies that have set greenhouse gas reduction goals. The rest of the partners are in the process of setting goals. Two other industry companies recently became Climate Leader partners: Ecolab Inc., St. Paul, Minn., and Kimberly Clark Corp., Neenah, Wis.
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