Subcommittees Examine Technologies to Prevent Infections at VA Hospitals

Jun 26, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The Research & Technology and Oversight subcommittees today held a joint hearing to assess the potential benefits of new technologies to prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). There have been high percentages of HAIs and mortality rates among patients at some Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals. Research supported by the National Science Foundation in robotics, nanotechnology, and other areas of the biological sciences has helped to bring about technological innovations to prevent HAIs.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “Hospital-acquired infections are a serious public health problem that affects patients in hospitals all across the country. A number of VA hospitals are among the worst in the United States in terms of inflicting preventable infections on their patients. American veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms. They deserve the best health care possible, as soon as possible.”

Hospital acquired infections are the most common complication of hospital care. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 1.7 million HAIs per year in the U.S. causing or contributing to up to 99,000 deaths annually.

Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Larry Bucshon M.D. (R-Ind.): “Just one organism—methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA—kills more Americans each year than the combined total of emphysema, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, and homicide. The better news is that there are some promising new, non-pharmaceutical innovations that can help to reduce HAI rates significantly, innovations that don’t seem to carry the possibility of eventual antibiotic resistance. These innovations have been developed from research in several scientific fields, including nanotechnology, robotics, computer science, and biology.”

Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun M.D. (R-Ga.): “The principle function of our federal government under the Constitution is to provide for our national defense and take care of the men and women who have so bravely served our country with dignity and pride. We have made promises, and we must fulfill those promises for those who have sacrificed for us. Our veterans should receive the best care – there is no question about it.”

The following witnesses testified:

Dr. Chetan Jinadatha, Chief, Infectious Diseases, Central Texas Veterans Health Care System
Dr. Elaine Cox, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Director of Infection Prevention, Director of Pediatric Antimicrobial Stewardship, Riley Hospital for Children
Dr. Trish M. Perl, Professor of Medicine and Pathology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Professor of Epidemiology, Bloomberg School of Public Health; Senior Epidemiologist, Johns Hopkins Medicine
Mr. Jeff Smith, President, Electro-spec, Inc.
Mr. Morris Miller, Chief Executive Officer, Xenex Disinfection Services

For additional information about today’s hearing, including witness testimony, visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website.