Between 1972 and 1973, Britt and colleagues conducted 1-day infection prevalence surveys in 18 hospitals each with fewer than 75 beds and all located in the rural intermountain west. The lessons learned from that study were incorporated into a book chapter entitled “Infection Control in Small Hospitals” by Dr. Britt. Since that study no substantial nor systematic review of nosocomial infections in small community or rural hospitals has been reported. A recent editorial in Infection Control posed four questions that still needed to be answered for the smaller (less than 100-bed) hospital:
1. Given the statistical realities of small hospitals, what types of surveillance methods—periodic prevalence surveys, general surveillance, focused surveillance, etc.—are the most reliable? Are any of them necessary?
2. Which of the many infection control practices recommended by the CDC, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, and others are applicable to small hospitals?
3. What resource sharing of existing expertise, from larger hospitals, health departments, groups such as the Association of Practitioners of Infection Control and the Society of Hospital Epidemiologists of America, and others can be developed for smaller hospitals in cost effective and realistic ways?
4. Should smaller hospitals be required to have the same type of multidisciplinary infection control committees required of larger hospitals or can the responsibilities of the committee be delegated to a smaller group such as one nurse and one staff physician?
The purpose of this report is to provide detailed infection control information obtained from 15 hospitals located in rural areas of Southwestern Wisconsin. This article will focus on data derived from an initial comprehensive prevalence survey that replicated the Britt study in the Wisconsin sites in 1983. Additional data were derived from ongoing bi-monthly prevalence studies done over 6 consecutive months in each of the 15 rural hospitals. Data from 6 months of ongoing comprehensive surveillance from each of the 15 hospitals and final conclusions from the project will be the subject of a subsequent paper.