This week the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released its “Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections” which sets five-year prevention targets for six major types of infection. Such as (from Table 1):

• A 30% reduction in C. difficile
• A 25% reduction in urinary catheter infections
• A 50% reduction in MRSA infections

Unlike Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” this HHS plan is actually modest. You can read the full plan here.

While the plan pulls together a great deal of what hospitals and other should be doing, it has no recommendations for requiring that prevention targets are met. It calls for a federal interagency committee to take over the details of how the national effort will be evaluated and coordinated. And lots of meetings and more research.

The Plan lays out targets for hospitals to meet in five years that fall short of the significant successes that many U.S. hospitals have accomplished by implementing similar strategies. Meanwhile, millions more patients will enter the hospital and get infected from MRSA, VRE, C. difficile, or other dangerous pathogens.

For a patient lying on an operating table about to get surgery, five years is too long a wait before the procedure is safe. For a patient that’s confined to a dirty hospital bed, five years may be too generous for developing standardized methods to measure whether doctors are complying with hand hygiene.

What do you think? Can we afford to wait another five years until we can expect serious action (and results) from our health agencies? In five years, will we be forced to cite this same dark figure from 2002—that 1.7 million hospital-acquired infections occur in U.S. hospitals and contribute to 99,000 deaths per year?

The HHS will be taking your emailed comments until Friday, February 6. Tell the HHS that you deserve swifter action on eliminating deadly hospital infections!