My colleague Betsy McCaughey, chair of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, publishes in July’s Best Hospitals 2007 of US News and World Report that hospitals must begin to take responsibility for their infection rates, and begin to take the necessary steps to clean themselves up.
She cites a study that shows that “65 percent of physicians and other medical professionals admitted they hadn’t washed their lab coat in at least a week, even though they knew it was dirty. Nearly 16 percent said they hadn’t put on a clean lab coat in at least a month. Lab coats become covered in bacteria when doctors lean over the bedsides of patients who carry the organisms. Days later the bacteria are still alive, repeatedly contaminating doctors’ hands and being carried to other patients.”
MRSA and other infectious agents are everywhere in hospitals. McCaughey talks about measurements infectious agents on stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, EKG wires, plus the patient’s bedside TV remotes, telephones and the like.
And why is all this important? Because HAIs, hospital acquired infections, (those are infections that patients pick up while they are in the hospital, in addition to whatever problems they had when they were admitted) account for tens of thousands of deaths each year in the US alone.
Imagine going into the hospital for a routine surgery, only to die from an infection you got while you were there?
The problem is — all the important players are playing ostrich. The CDC does not require testing. JCAHO, the organization that accredits hospitals doesn’t even check into infection rates. According to the article, Joint Commission standards don’t specify how rooms should be cleaned or what bacterial levels are unacceptable. Asked whether bacterial levels should be measured, Robert Wise, JCAHO’s vice president for standards and survey methods answers: “You can only ask hospitals to do so much.”
I guess it’s too much to ask the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, to take responsibility for rules on measuring the infection rates.
I guess it’s too much to ask JCAHO to create a standard for hospitals and expect them to rise to it.
I guess it’s too much to ask Congress members to begin looking into this mess.
I guess it’s too much to ask hospitals to keep their patients safe — and alive.
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