Biden officials to keep private the names of hospitals where patients contracted Covid
“Not knowing what the likelihood of hospital transmission really affects a person’s ability to uncomfortably ‘make a personal decision’ about their risk levels,” said Mia Ives-Rublee, a disability rights advocate who has a lung condition. makes her more susceptible to Covid.
In the four weeks ending June 19, U.S. hospitals reported that an average of 1,457 patients per week had contracted Covid during their stay, according to a POLITICO analysis of data from the Department of Health and Human Services. This follows a record month in January, when more than 3,000 patients were infected in the hospital every week.
While the higher numbers have declined, the risk remains real for a subset of the population with compromised immune systems who must weigh in to get checkups and treatments for potentially serious problems “versus maybe getting Covid and ending up on a ventilator,” Ives-Rublee said. .
At a March meeting with the CDC, Ives-Rublee and other patient advocates called for greater transparency about hospital transfers, but talks came to nothing, she said.
“We are frustrated at the lack of progress we have seen in terms of addressing concerns for people at extreme risk of Covid,” Ives-Rublee said.
Other proponents told POLITICO they plan to continue to pressure the government ahead of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts could be another drop in Covid cases.
“A majority of voters want HHS to align with us — tell us how much coronavirus is spreading in the specific hospital we’re going to,” said Matthew Cortland, an immunocompromised human rights activist who defended the campaign. a recent poll on the matter for Data for Progress, a left-wing think tank. “But that transparency is inconvenient for the powerful hospital lobby.”
The American Hospital Association wants the facility’s infection rates to remain private. “Reporting aggregated data is the most appropriate approach given the very low incidence of COVID-19 in the hospital,” Nancy Foster, an AHA executive, said in a statement.
During the pandemic, many hospitals chose not to take measures that could have dramatically reduced transmission, said workers, health officials and patients across the country.
Many facilities no longer require masks for visitors or staff, despite the CDC’s recommendations. Even where masks are required, workers and visitors usually wear surgical masks, one of the least protective available, rather than N95s. Hospitals follow CDC guidelines, allowing Covid-positive staff to return while contagious. Business leaders insist that their protocols are adequate and that some transmission of Covid is inevitable; the AHA says hospitals’ measures are generally safe.
US health officials have debated the benefits of identifying hospital-acquired infections since the Trump administration began collecting the information in 2020, according to three current and former officials who were given anonymity to speak candidly about internal deliberations.
The figures only include patients who test positive after a minimum hospitalization of 14 days to ensure a patient has not contracted the virus before admission. The government’s results are likely less than the total, as hospitals don’t report people testing positive after being discharged.
Trump-era officials decided to keep hospital names private, fearing a trip would discourage people from seeking health care, according to two former health officials, one of whom worked in the Trump and Biden administrations. A Trump HHS spokesperson also confirmed the thinking.
But more than two years after the pandemic, with the availability of vaccines and treatments, Biden officials are no longer concerned that most patients are avoiding care, according to one of the people involved in more recent discussions. Some US health officials want the same kind of transparency that exists for other hospital-acquired infections, they say. For years, the U.S. government has been collecting patient infection rates for various pathogens and publishing scores for each hospital on a patient website.
Still, the CDC and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the two agencies that could make the data public, have refused to release it. POLITICO filed freedom of information requests in April, but federal officials have not yet provided the data.
An HHS spokesperson said in a statement the agency would not release the names for “privacy issues” but declined to specify what the privacy concerns were.
One of the concerns of some federal health officials is that the disclosure could embarrass hospitals and cause them to stop reporting their information, according to a U.S. health official who has discussed the matter with the CDC and CMS. But that concern is not widely accepted.
Some CDC officials have argued internally that the information — as hospitals currently provide it — is not a good measure of risk, according to two CDC officials who reviewed the data, who were given anonymity to discuss internal debates. That’s because facilities report snapshots of the number of patients currently in the hospital who have Covid contracted each day, meaning some patients are recounted in the following days while they remain in the facility.
The CDC did not respond to requests for comment.