Keeping hospitals healthy

April 20, 2012
Linda Dickey, in background, leads UC Irvine Medical Center's efforts to prevent the spread of hospital-acquired infectious diseases. /UC Irvine Health

No one goes to the hospital to get sick, yet it happens each day at medical centers, clinics and private physicians offices across the U.S.

State and federal health officials have taken aim at eliminating hospital-acquired infectious diseases that range from the latest flu strain to the drug-resistant staph infection known as MRSA by requiring hospitals to report such infections.

At UC Irvine Medical Center, Linda Dickey keeps an eye on these infections and others and directs plans to reduce the likelihood that they will spread to patients and healthcare workers.

In 2009, when fears were running high about the bird flu virus, the facility began requiring that employees either get a flu shot or sign a written declination and wear a mask in medical areas. The mandatory policy was designed to protect patients, says Dickey, a nurse and director of the medical center’s epidemiology & infection prevention program.

It worked. Compliance, which had been voluntary, jumped from about 60 percent — the national average for hospitals — to more than 90 percent. “It’s a big win for us,” Dickey says. “Now other hospitals are following our lead.”

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