House Passes Legislation to Monitor MRSA

By Adam Wilson | The Olympian • Published March 10, 2009
Lawmakers moved forward Monday with an effort to track drug-resistant staph infections and slow the bacteria's spread.

Once the subject of stiff resistance from some medical groups, Rep. Tom Campbell's House bill passed unanimously. It will require hospitals to develop a system to identify patients carrying the potentially deadly disease, and policies to control the infections.

That includes telling people when they are sharing a hospital room with someone who is carrying drug-resistant staph, said Campbell, a Republican from Yelm. "At the very least, the hospital will have to disclose that to the patient, that they are indeed roomed with an infectious person."

The Senate approved its own bill on the so-called superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. The organism is immune to common antibiotics. It can be treated, but it also can be lethal, particularly for those whose immune systems are already fragile.

The Senate bill, backed by Sen. Karen Keiser, would require hospitals to screen all patients entering and leaving their intensive care units for drug-resistant staph. If more than 5 percent of patients contract the germ during treatment, the hospital must continue the program. All patients found to be carrying the germ would be advised and counseled under Senate Bill 5500.

The House version — House Bill 1329 — had been opposed as too burdensome by some health professionals, including the Washington State Medical Association, which represents doctors.

The measure was changed, notably dropping a requirement to screen every patient for the germ before certain scheduled surgeries. Campbell pledged to return to that issue.

Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said he was hospitalized for a month in 2007, and thought about the possibility of contracting a drug-resistant staph infection.

"This kind of infection is the kind that kills people. ... This is something I feared every day," he said.