In a statewide ranking, the state Department of Public Health says that California hospitals overall reported a 10 percent decrease last year of a deadly type of hospital-acquired infection that can strike critically ill patients.
The so-called central line-associated blood stream infection can occur in patients who must be fitted with catheters for fluids or medication.
On average, cases have dropped in the face of significant efforts in the state Legislature and the health care system to reduce the frequency.
But among teaching hospitals, UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento posts a "statistically higher" number of the infections than do other large university hospitals in California, the department's findings released last week show.
UC Davis Medical Center's chief medical officer, Dr. Allan Siefkin, said that is likely because the hospital's reporting system is more thorough than those found in other hospitals.
"We have a very, very rigorous surveillance program and we actively look out for cases using best practices," Siefkin said. "Unfortunately, many hospitals up and down the state don't have such a system."
State Department of Public Health officials noted that the statistics reflect just two years of reporting and conclusions should not necessarily be drawn on the basis of such a brief span of data.
"Over time, CDPH will have several years of data on each of these infections and consumers will be able to look at the trends," said Debby Rogers, deputy director of the department's Center for Health Care Quality.
In nearly 400 hospitals statewide, 3,163 cases of central-line infections were reported for 2011 a drop from 3,519 cases the previous year.
State law requires hospitals to register cases of health care-acquired infections to encourage their decline through awareness and more careful hand-washing and sterilization techniques.
Battling hospital-acquired infection also is key in the federal health care overhaul's drive to improve patient outcomes and lower the number of hospital readmissions.
State data for 2011 indicate that UC Davis Medical Center registered a "statistically higher" number of central-line infections than in the previous year in critical care units for surgery, burns and pediatrics.
In the general care ward, the Sacramento center also registered "statistically higher" rates of central-line infections in the surgery category, according to the state rankings.
In addition, a second, separate infection appeared to surface more often at UC Davis Medical Center than at any of the other acute-care teaching hospitals monitored in the state survey.
Of 25 California hospitals reporting a total of 224 cases of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in 2011, UC Davis Medical Center registered the highest at 29, a "significantly higher" incidence compared with the mean rate, the ranking said.
Siefkin said that is due to the hospital's diligence in testing patients as they arrive at the hospital, and catching the infection at the door to segregate incoming cases from other patients.
"These cases are occurring in part as a result of an overuse of antibiotics," he said, which explains the resistance to Methicillin.
The second-highest occurrence of the infection also known as MRSA occurred at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, which reported 23 cases for 2011.
UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center registered 10 cases of MRSA last year, and University of California San Francisco showed 17 cases of MRSA for the San Francisco Medical Center and Mount Zion combined.
Ultimately, Rogers said, the data will be used by hospitals to find areas for improvement, by consumers to determine the value of care, and by patients to make informed choices.