Deadly Infections Behind Closed Hospital Doors
Written By: Anna Badalian
About one in 20 hospitalized patients will develop an infection. Based on the new Consumer Report of only 544 hospital who have data for surgical-site infections, only 82 reported zero infections. This was just in 14 states that required public reporting from hospitals. On average, 290,000 surgical-site infections occur each year in our nation's hospitals causing patients more complications and pain.
That's 462 hospitals in 14 states that reported surgical-site infections in their hospitalized patients - because they were required to.
"Dirty instruments, improperly sterilized catheters or needles, and the contaminated hands of doctors, nurses, or other health-care workers are common causes." The Consumer Report rated hospitals on the infections that would develop after their patients underwent serious surgery and what they found was that most of the infections were being caused by central-line catheters in intensive care units meant to deliver drugs and nutrients. In many other cases, the infection even occurred during surgery. Inflicting the bloodstream with serious infections results in life-altering complications that never had to occur in the first place.
Central-line catheter infections are extremely dangerous. It has been reported that they kill up to 16,250 patients a year. This, however, is completely preventable. No hospital should have to inflict bloodstream infections on their hospitalized patients who are trying to recover. Patients undergo serious operations and have to fight off even more serious diseases, so why aren't hospitals more cautious with their tools and instruments? The public should be aware of the possibility that hospitals might not be following adequate safety measures, and this could be a leading cause of their injuries and complications. Many of the infections that patients suffer from are life altering - an added worry of new infections that could be prevented should never occur, let alone change their life.
Johns Hopkins Hospital had less than half the rate of infections than the national benchmark. Although not certain, maybe Dr. Pronovost at Johns Hopkins Medicine had something to do with that considering he developed an infection-prevention checklist designed to eliminate almost all hospital infections. In one study, 60% of hospitals that used his designed checklist eliminated all central-line infections in their intensive-care units for at least a year. Later it was shown that those hospitals saw a 10% drop in their overall death rates. This kind of initiative is the best way to ensure that hospitals will move in the right direction toward safer places to treat patients.
Patients and the general public have a right to know of the risks and complications that could occur from a hospital's negligence. Always make sure that the hospital staff is using sterile instruments and that they have washed their hands before touching you. It is shocking how quickly an infection can pass from one person to the next so every precaution should be taken. If your hospital is using any catheters or other tubes, ask everyday whether they can be removed or not. To truly stay clear of all infections however, you can always ask if your hospital uses a checklist for inserting and maintaining central lines and how they monitor those lines.
Remember, it is always better to be safe. Don't settle for unclear instructions or vague answers. It is your body and your right to know. The Federal government recently provided funding of $218 million dollars to 26 hospital groups nationwide to improve the safety of hospitals and in addition, provided up to $500 million to various programs to help Medicare patients in their process of going from the hospital to their homes. These initiatives are meant to assist hospitals in making the right safety choices. They know their duty and should not be careless when it comes to simple measures that need to be taken.
Sometimes, the simple precautions can prevent the deadliest of infections.