AHRQ just published the "2009 National Healthcare Quality Report and National Healthcare Disparities Report" and things don't look too good. Full reports available here. Post-op sepsis or BSI---increased 8%. Post-op catheter-associated UTI---increased 3.6%. And for CLABSI - drum roll----no change. Ouch! Post-op pneumonia down 12%. The New York Times seemed upbeat, calling the problem of these infections "largely solvable."
I'm not sure where these data leave us and perhaps Mike, Dan and Connie will have some comments on this report too. However, I think what these data are telling us is that when you don't fund enough proper studies (and multiple studies) on methods to prevent HAIs - the 6th leading cause of death and when you are mostly left to resort to "absence of evidence-based medicine" tricks like kitchen-sink bundles...well, this is where you end up.
To suggest, as Katherine Sebelius did, that the new health care law would “help turn these numbers around” since hospitals with high rates of infections will be penalized starting in the 2015, is a bit hopeful. I think we haven't invested in HAI prevention studies like we have in cardiology and other areas, and I don't think we're going to get these rates down with sticks alone. You can't see in the dark if you don't know how to make a flashlight or even light a fire.