Bayfront Health Brooksville and Bayfront Health Spring Hill are among a handful of Florida hospitals that saw a sharp rise in the number of MRSA infections, which can be deadly to patients if not treated, according to federal officials.
The trend is one of the takeaways from a body of new data compiled by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which studied a number of conditions patients often develop before and after surgery or during other hospitalized treatment.
Among those conditions are adverse drug events, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections, pressure injuries and surgical site infections. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has been tracking the data since 2014 with the aim of prodding hospitals to improve their practices. The goal is a 20 percent reduction in the rate of such conditions by 2019.
According to the new data, Bayfront Health Brooksville was no different than the national benchmark for most hospital-acquired conditions — except when it came to MRSA, a contagious bacterial infection that is resistant to common antibiotics and can be difficult to treat. The Hernando County hospital rated "worse than the national benchmark" for a spike in the number of cases.
The data also includes infections reported at Bayfront Health's other Hernando hospital in Spring Hill, according to Jennifer Siem, a Bayfront Health spokeswoman.
She said the numbers have improved since the information was collected from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. From then through March 31, she said, MRSA infections are down 60 percent at the two hospitals.
"MRSA is prevalent in communities across America, and patients are often "carriers" of the bacteria without being aware," Siem said. "The rise in prevalence in our country has been attributed to decades of antibiotic use, in which staphylococcus aureus has become resistant and more difficult to treat."
She added: "Our hospital works to identify patients who have an active infection or may be a 'carrier' at the time of admission, so that proper precautions can be put into place and prevent further spread of the bacteria."
Six other Florida hospitals fell below the national benchmark for MRSA. Among them were UF Health Jacksonville, Bay Medical Center in Panama City, Steward Hospital in Rockledge, Health Central in Ocoee and Parrish Medical Center in Titusville. Jackson Health Complex, which operates three facilities in the Miami area, reported more cases of MRSA than any other hospital in the nation, the Miami Herald reported.
CMS used data on infection rates from more than 4,500 hospitals in the country. In Florida, 186 hospitals reported their findings collected from July 2016 to June 2017.
MRSA infections have been on the rise in Florida for the last few years. In 2015, acute care hospitals in the state reported 194 cases of MRSA, according to the latest available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of infections that year was slightly higher than the national average.
Out of 144 Florida hospitals examined by the CDC, 12 percent had higher rates of infection than the national average and only 2 percent had lower rates.
The two Bayfront Health hospitals in Hernando are among six hospitals along Florida's Gulf Coast owned by Community Health Systems, one of the nation's largest owners and operators of hospitals, with 137 of them in 21 states. The company has struggled financially in recent years, posting heavy net losses quarter after quarter and has sold dozens of under-performing hospitals from its portfolio. That includes the recent sale of its Dade City hospital to Adventist Health Systems, owner of the Florida Hospital chain.
Contact Justine Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.