Posts Tagged With: infections

Emailing Senator Levin: An Exercise in Futility

I realize our senators get a lot of mail and can’t read it all.  After all there are only two of them for this state and a whole lot of us–maybe not as many of us as there were a couple of years ago before the economy tanked, but still a whole lot.   That means our senators won’t read everything sent their way.  They don’t have the time.  I’d be surprised if they even read half the stuff they vote for or against. (gasp!)

I suppose I really don’t expect their staffs to read the letters or emails either. After all, they are busy cranking out press releases and sending out tickets to constituents who want to visit the Capitol or White House or send flags to those who ask for them.

That’s why I wasn’t too surprised to get a canned response to the recent email I sent Senator Levin concerning the need to improve infection reporting by hospitals. The idea being that forced reporting will cause (shame) hospitals into increasing the precautions they take to cut infections, therefore saving lives. It’s all in a recent posting I did.

Anyway, I got a response back from Senator Levin’s office today. It’s below. Apparently, his staff didn’t have a canned response that matched my particular request and they didn’t have time to draft something, so they used what they had–a message on health care reform.

Too bad it has nothing to do with infection reporting by hospitals. Here it is:

Dear Mr. Johnson:

Thank you for contacting me regarding hospital safety standards in health care reform. I appreciate hearing from you. I have long supported the goal of ensuring that all Americans have access to stable, reliable, and affordable health care.

In November 2009, the House of Representatives passed health care reform legislation, and on December 24, 2009, the Senate passed its version of health care reform legislation (H.R.3590). The Senate bill would strengthen America’s health care system by preserving personal choice, ensuring people can keep their health insurance if they like it, and reducing cost through competition. This bill would eliminate existing insurance company practices that discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions, and that impose annual and lifetime limits on benefits. These limits on benefits have allowed insurance companies to deny coverage for an individual’s medical treatment if that treatment is too costly. In addition, this legislation would reduce waste and fraud in the health care system and would reinvest those savings to strengthen that system.

Recently, President Obama released a health care reform plan that includes several provisions contained in the bills passed by the House and Senate. As Congress and President Obama continue to debate health care reform and the most practical and prudent way to enact those reforms, I will keep your thoughts in mind. Again, thank you for contacting me.

Carl Levin


I don’t want to just pick on Levin.  Senator Stabenow’s office did something similar in response to an email I sent her way a while back. I would think Republican senators in other states do the same thing.

I’d like to someday visit either Senator’s office to see just how staff members decide what canned responses to use with a particular message, or if they even bother to read either the email when it arrives or their response before they send it out.  Or maybe they don’t read it.  Maybe a piece of software does it for them and then just spits out a response.

I do know that if I decide to visit I won’t make the request via email. Who knows what kind of weird response I’d get.

Categories: General, Life | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Publicize Infections in Hospitals

I saved lives today–or at least took a simple step that might.  I sent emails to my Congressional representatives asking that hospital infection rates be made public.

Why do that, you ask?

Simple.  States that require hospitals to disclose this information have lower infection rates and lower infection rates mean fewer deaths and lower medical costs.  In Pennsylvania, for example, infection rates dropped 8% when the state’s new law went into effect. (That’s a big decrease.)  Currently, laws vary from state to state and only 27 states have laws.  That’s not right.  Everybody should have access to information so they can make an informed decision when choosing a hospital.  Plus, disclosing that information might just shame hospitals into enforcing practices that result in fewer infections.  Shame is a powerful motivator.

It’s important hospitals cut infections.  According to Consumers Union, nearly 100,000 American lives and up to $45 billion each year can be saved if hospitals take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of deadly infections among their patients.

The email I sent to my representatives came from Consumers Union, the organization that publishes Consumer Reports magazine.  The request is part of CU’s Safe Patient Project campaign focused on eliminating medical harm, improving FDA oversight of prescription drugs and promoting disclosure laws that give information to consumers about health care safety and quality.

This particular campaign is aimed at cutting infections people get in hospitals by publicizing infection rates. Because hospital staffs  don’t always take the steps they should to lower the chances of infection, we or our family members could be at risk every time we go into a hospital. Unfortunately, you don’t know if you’re at risk because many hospitals aren’t required to tell you how many people get infections while being treated there.

Some of the steps a hospital staff can take to cut infection rates are simple and include such things as:
— Routine hand-washing between patients
— Isolation of patients with infections or those carrying antibiotic superbugs
— Giving surgical patients preventive antibiotics in the proper manner
—  Use a simple checklist in ICUs for inserting catheters.

By the way, routine hand-washing is something done only half the time, according to Consumers Union research.  Scary, isn’t it?

Emails to Congress don’t have as much impact as a personal letter or phone call. And unfortunately, those don’t have as much impact as the money hospital lobbyists give opposing such measures.  However, a lot of legislators are running scared after the recent vote in Massachusetts and they may just listen.   After all, who can be opposed to preventing infections in moms, babies and apple pie.  Ok, maybe not the pie.

So, take a minute and fill out the Consumers Union email form.  It’s customizable and you don’t even need to know who your congressional representatives are.   The site makes that determination based on your address.

By doing so, you might just save a lives today, too.

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