Biden officials withhold names of hospitals where patients contracted Covid

“Not knowing how the likelihood of infection in a hospital actually affects people’s ability to quote without quotes ‘make a personal decision’ about their risk levels,” said Mia Ives-Rubley, a disability rights advocate who has a lung condition that makes her more susceptible to Covid.

In the four weeks ending June 19, U.S. hospitals reported an average of 1,457 patients per week contracting Covid during their stay, according to a POLITICO analysis of data from the Department of Health and Human Services. It follows record month in january when more than 3,000 patients were infected every week in the hospital.

While higher numbers have come down, the risk remains real for a subset of the population with compromised immune systems, who must weigh getting screened and treated for potentially serious problems “instead of getting Covid and being put on a ventilator,” Ives-Rubley said. said.

At a March meeting with the CDC, Ives-Rubley and other patient advocates demanded more transparency about hospital transmission, but the talks came to nothing, she said.

“We are disappointed with the lack of progress we are seeing in terms of addressing the concerns of people who are extremely at risk of contracting Covid,” Ives-Rubley said.

Other advocates have told POLITICO they intend to keep putting pressure on the administration ahead of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts could be another drop in Covid cases.

“Most voters want HHS equal to us — tell us how much the coronavirus is spreading in that particular hospital we go to,” said Matthew Cortland, an immunocompromised rights activist who ran in the election. recent poll on Data for Progress, a left think tank. “But this kind of transparency is inconvenient for a powerful hospital lobby.”

The American Hospital Association wants data on infected facilities to remain confidential. “Providing summary data is the most appropriate approach given the very low incidence of COVID-19 with hospital onset,” AHA chief Nancy Foster said in a statement.

Throughout the pandemic, many hospitals chose not to take measures that could drastically reduce transmission, according to workers, health leaders and patients across the country.

Many facilities no longer require masks for patrons or staff, despite CDC recommendations. Even where masks are required, workers and visitors usually wear surgical masks, one of the least protective, instead of N95. Hospitals are following the recommendations of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which allow Covid-positive employees to return while they are contagious. Industry leaders insist that their protocols are adequate and that some transmission of Covid is inevitable; The AHA says hospital measures are generally safe.

U.S. health officials have been debating the merits of identifying infections in hospitals since the Trump administration began gathering information in 2020, according to three current and former officials who were granted anonymity to speak candidly about internal discussions.

The figures only include patients who test positive after a minimum hospital stay of 14 days to ensure the patient has not contracted the virus prior to admission. The government’s count is probably less than the total because hospitals don’t report people who test positive after being discharged.

According to two former health officials, one of whom served in the Trump and Biden administrations, Trump-era officials chose not to reveal hospital names for fear that revealing them could discourage people from seeking medical care. In addition, this thought was confirmed by a spokesman for Trump’s HHS.

But after more than two years of the pandemic, with vaccines and treatments becoming available, Biden officials are no longer worried that most patients are avoiding medical care, according to one of the participants in recent discussions. Some U.S. health officials want the same transparency that exists for other nosocomial infections, they said. For many years, the US government has been collecting patient infection rates for various pathogens and publishing estimates for each hospital on site for patients.

However, the CDC and the Assistant Secretary’s Office for Preparedness and Response, two agencies that may have released the data, refused to release it. Politico filed freedom of information requests in April, but federal officials have yet to release the records.

An HHS spokesperson said in a statement that the agency would not release the names due to “privacy concerns” but declined to elaborate on what the privacy concerns were.

One concern of some federal health officials is that disclosure could embarrass hospitals and lead them to stop reporting their information, according to one U.S. health official who has discussed the matter with the CDC and CMS. But this concern is not universal.

Some CDC officials have argued that the information as currently provided by hospitals is not a good measure of risk, according to two CDC officials who reviewed the data, who were given the anonymous right to speak about the internal debate. This is because facilities each day report the number of patients who currently have hospital-acquired Covid, meaning that some patients are counted again in subsequent days while they remain in the facility.

The CDC did not respond to requests for comment.