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Atlantic General Hospital Selected for Initiative to Reduce MRSA Infection Rates

MRSA, or Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, is a growing problem in the United States; as many as 126,000 hospitalizations are related to infections caused by this germ.

While it is estimated that more than 2 million people carry the MRSA germ on their skin and the incidence of infections contracted in the community is also rising, the majority of infections are still healthcare-associated.

The term healthcare-associated refers to those infections that occur as a result of some kind of contact with a healthcare setting.

Atlantic General Hospital was recently selected to join the Maryland Patient Safety Center’s MRSA Prevention Initiative, a five-month program that helps participating hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and dialysis centers identify and successfully implement new practices to reduce the spread of MRSA. Through this initiative, the participating healthcare providers will employ positive difference, a method that encourages the sharing and adoption of unique infection control practices that staff members may be using during their daily routine as an extra measure beyond standard protocol. Positive difference gives a voice to those on the front lines who are in a position to take note of the potential ways that infection is being transmitted and come up with effective solutions. According to a presentation given by Johns Hopkins Hospital, who was among six selected nationally to first implement positive difference through a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant in 2005, hospitals who have adopted this practice have been able to reduce MRSA infection rates by 80 percent.

“After attending the executive briefing, which cited many of the successes nationally, it was very clear to me that AGH needed to be actively engaged in positive difference,” said Colleen Wareing, vice president of Patient Care Services. “Our Medical Staff and hospital leadership agree the investment of resources along with collaboration with our community partners will lead to a significant reduction in MRSA in our community.”

In mid-November, Atlantic General proceeded with the initiative, one of several programs the hospital has adopted recently to reduce the potential spread of infectious diseases and to continually improve patient safety. In February of 2006, Atlantic General Hospital’s surgical services department initiated the Surgical Care Improvement Project (SCIP) through a collaborative with the Delmarva Foundation.

SCIP is a national quality enterprise among hospitals committed to reducing postoperative complications. Atlantic General Hospital actively supports this partnership, and the surgical services department currently monitors and collects data on difficulties related to infections and other post-surgical complications. The data is then submitted and results are compared nationally. Inpatient operations account for significant complications in hospitals across the country, so the scope of this joint venture allows hospitals to identify peers having similar difficulties and gives them the opportunity to learn from one another.

“We consistently demonstrate a low surgical infection rate as compared to national standards,” said Shirley Spirk, director of surgical services. “Initiatives like SCIP allow us to partner with other high quality providers to implement best practice and maintain our excellence into the future.”

Maryland Patient Safety Center The Maryland Patient Safety Center brings together hospitals and health care providers to improve patient safety and health care quality for all Marylanders. The goal of the Patient Safety Center is to make Maryland’s health care the safest in the country. It is jointly operated by the Maryland Hospital Association and the Delmarva Foundation.


The Surgical Care Improvement Project (SCIP) is a unique partnership that is proving to be a transformational undertaking in health care. The SCIP goal is to reduce the incidence of surgical complications nationally by 25 percent by the year 2010. For more information about SCIP, visit