Preventing Hospital Infections Would Save Lives-and Billions Here’s a good way to reduce health care costs: get serious about preventing the 100,000 annual deaths from MRSA and other hospital-acquired infections, which cost $35-45 billion per year to treat. [Consumer Reports Health]

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  1. SigmundTheSeaMonster says:

    But people die in hospitals, yes?

  2. rpm773 says:

    If only hospitals would stop clowning around and get serious about this issue…

  3. Saboth says:

    My wife is a nursing coordinator at our local hospital, in charge of schedules, ordering supplies, etc. Her job used to have 3 people doing it on 3 shifts, now she is the last one left. In addition, the hospital told her she needs to halve her budget over the next few months. Basically her budget is for gloves for nurses, needles, gauze, etc. You know, the stuff that can help prevent infections. You can’t exactly re-use gloves and needles between patients, so not sure how you cut that budget.

    I told her to send all the used stuff downstairs for bleaching, and use that stuff on people that come in with no insurance and cost the hospital big $.

    • pattiesmart says:

      @Saboth: “I told her to send all the used stuff downstairs for bleaching, and use that stuff on people that come in with no insurance and cost the hospital big $. “

      This is ridiculous. “Let’s use unsafe materials on poor people!”

    • pop top says:

      @Saboth: “I told her to send all the used stuff downstairs for bleaching, and use that stuff on people that come in with no insurance and cost the hospital big $.”

      Yeah. Fuck those uninsured people. They deserve to get infections for being poor! Social Darwinism rules!

    • redskull says:

      @Saboth: Yes, because as we all know, everyone without insurance willingly refuses to have it, don’t they.

      • Saboth says:

        @redskull:

        Doesn’t matter, they jack up the cost for the rest of us. When your hospital closes due to lack of funds from all the people that don’t pay their bills, don’t go running to the mayor. Not having insurance is either your picking the short straw in life, or your choice. Not paying your bill is an entirely different matter. The money has to come from somewhere, and everyone loves to believe hospitals and doctors are rolling in the dough when it simply isn’t true. It reduces the care for the rest of us that do pay our bills when those that don’t, seek treatment.

  4. ARP says:

    I imagine that hospitals will eventually employ factory-farm techniques and not worry about being clean and instead, just give everyone antibiotics the second they walk in the door.

    • SkokieGuy says:

      @ARP: Read the tips in the link, antiobiotics are a ‘recommended’ solution. This helps create antibiotic-resistant organisms (MRSA anyone?).

      When I was a kid, and sick, my pediatrition would take a throat culture (took 24 hours) and based on what he found, would call us to tell us to pick up prescription.

      As an adult, I have had doctors right a script on the first visit, with no way of knowing if bacterial or viral infection (to those who don’t know, antibiotics are useless against a viral infection). When I’ve questioned them, the response is typically, “Well take it just in case”. These are doctors I do not return to.

      MRSA is the direct result of antiobiotic overuse and missuse.

      I wonder if the levels of MRSA and other hospital-acquired infections are higher / lower / the same in countries with national healthcare?

      • ARP says:

        @SkokieGuy: Agreed, but since when do people think long term?

        I also agree that over prescription of antibiotics is a contributor to hospital infections. I also think the surge of helicopter parents who want a script for for every cough an sneeze a child gets. I had to be on my deathbed before I went to the doctor for any time of cough cold, sore throat, etc. Perhaps, I got lucky that nothing serious happened to me. However, I don’t get nearly as sick as my friends who went all the time.

  5. SkokieGuy says:

    A family member is going to be going through surgery next month. We are purchasing our own medical grade sanitizing solutions and wipes. I will be wiping down the entire room.

    Just like when you repaint a white ceiling, it’s hard to tell where you missed, a hospital janitor may miss a spot when disinfecting, and do you really think they completely disinfect the rails of the bed, the telephone, TV remote, underside of the bed tray, etc? As soon as a patient touches an object in the room they create a tremendous opportunity to transmit infection.

    For those who share my concern, one company is: [metrex.com]

    • HiPwr says:

      @SkokieGuy: A UV light would identify the really aggregious lapses in sanitization.

    • Vicky says:

      @SkokieGuy: My husband went through major surgery last month and I shared your concern. The hospital staff were extremely diligent in putting on fresh gloves when they entered the room and I was never concerned on that front, but we did take a number of other precautions.

      I found it was important to communicate with potential visitors -before- the surgery, so they were already on board with washing and sanitizing their hands and with self-quarantine if they were suffering from even a minor cold. Once he moved from the ICU I stayed with him in the room and disinfected the bed rails, nurse call button, and bed tray before each meal and helped my husband sanitize his own hands before eating. Once he was more mobile I disinfected the bathroom fixtures, the chair by the bed, his wheelchair, and his cane. I was suffering from seasonal allergies and I took Sudafed every morning in addition to my regular allergy medicine to make sure I wasn’t wiping my nose or sneezing around him. And I’m happy to say he’s home now and doing well.

      Your doctor and your nurses can be excellent resources. We spoke with the surgeon about infection prevention beforehand and he explained that some surgical sites are more problematic than others. For my husband’s cranial surgery he recommended washing with Dial soap and shampooing his hair before surgery, but he said that for some procedures there would be special soaps and procedures.

    • oneandone says:

      @SkokieGuy: Please be sure to read the instructions on the sanitizer – some aspects of using it are not as intuitive as they should be.
      Good luck!

      @Vicky: Excellent advice; I think I will try to keep it in mind for the future.

  6. satoru says:

    I would like to point out that 100,000 DEATHS is an inaccurate number and should be corrected. The CDC reported close to 100,000 CASES of MRSA in 2007 which resulted in about 20,000 deaths.

    [www.cdc.gov]

    I wish people would stop bandying about that 100,000 death number for everything from MRSA to hospital error deaths.

    • SkokieGuy says:

      @satoru: Well since the article says: “100,000 annual deaths from MRSA and other hospital-acquired infections”

      If MRSA alone causes 20,000 deaths, that means that 80,000 deaths fall into ‘other hospital-acquired infections’. In other words, 25% of all hospital-acquired infections are from MRSA

      P.S. Your link actually says ‘nearly 19,000′, but I think you understand the point.

      I don’t see any mistatement.

      • Ratty says:

        @SkokieGuy: 20%.

      • satoru says:

        @SkokieGuy:
        I believe the article is incorrect as the link I provided is the CDC article they refer to yet this CDC article states:

        [www.cdc.gov]

        MRSA caused more than 94,000 life-threatening infections and nearly 19,000 deaths in the United States in 2005,

        What has happened is the 100,000 infections has turned into 100,000 deaths as the article is retold without actually referring to the CDC document in question. This kind of thing falls into other types of facts where it has gotten murky over the years. Such as you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day.

        The 100,000 deaths per year doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you compare it to:

        43,664 – motor vehicle deaths
        [www.cdc.gov]
        56,326 – Influenza and Pneumonia
        72,449 – Diabetes
        121,599 – Accidents (unintentional injuries which includes motor vehicle deaths)
        [www.cdc.gov]

        Certainly 100,000 MRSA infections is 100,000 too many and hospitals need to step up prevention measures. I am simply providing clarification to the number stated.

  7. shepd says:

    The people working at hospitals are their own worst enemies.

    [www.cbc.ca]

  8. mythago says:

    Atul Gawande has written about this at length; doctors just find it a big old hassle to wash their hands all the time. I know last time I was in the hospital I had to make an issue of it, and gods only knows how lax they were when I wasn’t conscious. And this was in a “good” hospital.

    • Saboth says:

      @mythago:

      A more likely scenario is they don’t have enough time, as a hospital cuts down on staff and they have to see double the patients in half the time.

      • mythago says:

        @Saboth: They don’t have enough time to take a basic precaution that prevents spreading infections to their patients? Thirty seconds to wash their hands, or ten seconds to use a squirt of desanitizer? Really? You just made many med-mal attorneys I know happy. I

  9. I Love New Jersey says:

    Big pharma is probably the most likely most responsible since they tend to encourage doctors to write a script for everything.

  10. VA_White says:

    You can check the quality statistics of any medical facility here: [qualitycheck.org]

    I would avoid a facility that can’t meet the standards of care at least 90% of the time. And don’t rely on the “gold standard seal” that TJC puts on there. Open the reports and really look at where your facility is screwing up. Do they give surgical patients the right meds at the right time? If they can’t get that right, pick a different place to have your surgery.

  11. pwillow1 says:

    A year ago my mother was hospitalized for major surgery in Big, World Renowned University Hospital, which boasted of its new program to prevent hospital-acquired infections like MRSA. Dispensers of hand sanitizer were all over the hospital including the lobbies and elevator banks. Posters about prevention were prominently displayed. Patients and their family members were encouraged to watch an informational video, which advised them to speak up and remind medical staff to wash hands before touching a patient. (One of the greatest risks is spreading infection from one patient to another, which is usually linked to medical personnel. But MRSA can be spread directly from one patient to another, for example, by two patients using the same toilet.)

    My mother was on heavy pain medications after her surgery and unable to advocate for herself, so this became my job: every time hospital staff came in her room, I would watch them like a hawk to make sure they used hand sanitizer or washed their hands. And I was surprised at the number of times I caught someone about to touch my mother without having taken proper precautions. Despite the prominent posters and the wide availability of hand sanitizer, medical personnel just forgot about that extra step.

  12. DrGirlfriend says:

    One of my closest friends died 12 years ago from an infection she acquired during a hospital stay just a week before she passed away. It moved so fast and caused so much damage that the doctors did not have time to figure out what happened until it was too late. It’s time this issue be looked at seriously, 100,000 deaths annually is inexcusable.