The House tonight passed SB 5500, which takes aim at a multiple-drug-resistant "superbug," in the words of one lawmaker, that has public health officials nervous.
"Probably about a third of us on this floor probably have a colony of MRSA on us right at this moment," said Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy.
Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, according to legislative researchers, is a drug-resistant form of a common germ. As Campbell says, it's commonly found on the skin. But once it's entered the body through a cut, it can cause life-threatening blood-, heart- or bone infections. "The majority of individuals with MRSA acquire it in a hospital setting," according to the bill report. And the infection rate is getting worse.
The bill requires hospitals to screen intensive care unit patients for three months a year, in order to monitor the disease. If the infection rate at the hospital exceeds two cases or 5 percent of ICU admissions, the monitoring continues. The infection would be listed on death certificates if it kills someone or contributes to a death.
Campbell has pushed for pre-surgery testing of all patients, but that's not in the bill.
"You know how bills are, sometimes we don't get all that we would like on the first go," he said.
Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, called it a critical disease to stop. He was hospitalized for a month in 2007 with a compromised immune system as part of cancer treatment.
"It's not like getting a little infection at the end of your finger. This is what kills people," Hunter said. While hospitalized, he said, "this was something I feared every day."
"This is one of the greatest scandals, I believe, that we have in the health system," said Rep. Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum. He said hospitals and doctors are clearly worried about who will be held liable for such infections.