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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mr. and Mrs. Republican: A lawmaker's response to their hospital acquired infection

Leo and Rita Pepino were married for almost 60 years. "She was my life," Leo says.

Rita died from bone cancer in 2005, after battling two other cancers. She was affectionately known in New Hampshire as "Mrs. Republican" for her political activism. Her husband Leo was the former Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

Rita had acquired several painful infections while in the hospital, getting sicker from the place that was supposed to make her well, Leo said.

"Every time she went to the hospital, she always got an infection," he said. He got one, too, years ago from a different hospital when he had back surgery.

Also a Republican, he kept his word after Rita died, helping to marshal through a new law requiring New Hampshire hospitals to report to the state for public release their rates for the three most serious hospital-acquired infections.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signed the bill into law in 2006, "in memory of Rita." However, public reporting has lagged: the state still does not publish the rates of individual hospitals' infections.

A year ago, Leo vowed at age 81 to run again for the seat he lost last time around to make sure consumers get information to compare hospital infection rates. It's for Rita, he said.

Advice to political activists: Be vigilant to ensure your new patient safety laws are implemented faithfully after they become law.

Read another story about Massachusetts'new law on reporting hospital acquired infections.

Thanks to Helen Haskell, and Nancy West for the source article in the New Hampshire Sunday News of August 10, 2008.

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