Readers React

Hospitals shouldn't keep infection outbreaks secret

To the editor: It is outrageous that hospitals are not required to make public disclosures of infection outbreaks. ("A veil of secrecy shields hospitals where outbreaks occur," April 18)

Some countries or jurisdictions, including some areas of the U.S., have enacted laws expressly to criminalize HIV transmission or exposure. It is nonsensical that information about hospital outbreaks should be kept confidential. If a single person with HIV can be charged with a duty of disclosure, a hospital should be charged with a similar duty.

Each patient should be given a fair chance to protect himself or herself from exposure to infection and to assume that a hospital is exercising its best efforts on his or her behalf in this area. Accordingly, there should be criminal penalties attached to the practice of secrecy, and it should not be allowed to continue.

Denis Robinson, Winnetka

The writer is an attorney.

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To the editor: As J.D. Power III demonstrated, the sharing of information makes consumers able to make better choices. It can also transform an industry, just as it did with automobile manufacturing. After years of resistance, auto makers now covet a high rating from J.D. Power and Associates, and consumers drive safer vehicles and can make better choices in their automobile purchases.

The benefits of reporting healthcare information will similarly be significant. The automobile industry has recalls that take defective products off the road. This can save lives and prevent unnecessary suffering. But it took political will to make these reporting changes come about.

Our political leaders must now change the law in regard to reporting infectious disease outbreaks in hospitals. The need for change is apparent, and our leaders must act.

Ken Murray, Westlake Village

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To the editor: On March 2, I had surgery for breast cancer at City of Hope. I was discharged March 4 and readmitted March 5.

A massive infection required removal of the breast implants and additional breast tissues. This complication led to a seven-day hospital stay. The identification of the source and type of infection was not revealed to me. One physician said, "You gave us a good scare."

To state that I experienced a physical and emotional degradation barely begins to describe the permanency of the outcome. Is there anyone out there who cares?

Berna Miller, La Quinta, Calif.

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