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Utah hospitals are doing a better job than their peers nationally at controlling one of the most deadly and costly hospital-borne infections, a new state Department of Health report shows.

In 2011, state hospitals reported 96 central line infections in intensive care patients. That's 37 percent lower than the national standard, or what would be predicted for hospitals of similar size and sophistication, health officials said.

Central lines are tubes placed in a large vein in the neck, chest, groin or arm to give fluids, blood, or medications.

The only outlier is Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton, which had eight central line infections in 2011, about 5 more than expected for a facility of its type and size, the report shows. The hospital, part of the IASIS Healthcare chain, also had higher-than-expected rates in the first six months of 2012.

St. Mark's Hospital stands out for having zero central line infections in 2011 and the first half of 2012. University Hospital and Intermountain Healthcare's Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo also had lower than expected infection rates.

"There were a few nuances and outliers," said Utah Hospital Association President and CEO Rod Betit. "But this says people can expect to go to any Utah hospital and they will be served well and protected from these sorts of infections."

The report is the first of many to come showing how hospitals compare in their infection rates. The health department has been collecting data on hospital-acquired infections since 2008, but until now, has never identified hospitals by name.

Federal officials publish the same data on their Hospital Compare web site.

"But it's a nightmare to navigate and often the data are incomplete," said Rep. Jack Draxler, R-Logan, who pushed for greater disclosure with legislation.

He said he's pleased with the consumer-friendly design of the state's first report; another detailing other types of infections is due out in October.

"Now we just need to spread the word that this resource is out there," Draxler said.

Pam Bennett, vice president of quality for the HCA Mountainstar chain, which owns St. Mark's Hospital, credits their success to a corporate and statewide push to follow safety guidelines released five years ago, such as fully draping a cover over a patient before inserting a catheter and assigning catheter insertions to a dedicated group of nurses who do it over and over again.

"It didn't happen over night, that's for sure," she said.

Davis Hospital and Medical Center, on the other hand, issued a statement questioning the accuracy of the report's data, saying it does not accurately reflect infection strategies the hospital had in place.

"However, in an abundance of caution, a team of physicians, nursing staff and quality and infection control experts immediately formed a committee to study the issue. A number of recommendations were implemented, and in the past 12 months, there have been no central line-associated bloodstream infections at Davis," the hospital said.

Sherry Varley, state health care-associated infections manager, said the data are validated by the National Healthcare Safety Network.

Attention is paid to grouping hospitals with their peers, to avoid comparing trauma centers treating infection-prone burn and cancer patients to small rural hospitals, she said.

The report includes data on just 14 of the state's 60 hospitals, those with intensive care units and enough central line patients to accurately judge their performance.

An estimated 82,000 central line-associated bloodstream infections happen in intensive care units every year in the U.S., causing 28,000 deaths, the report said.

Forty-eight percent of intensive care patients have central lines. The associated cost for each bloodstream infection is estimated to be between $3,700 and $29,000, according to the report.

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