Saturday, July 28, 2007

Swabs in Hand, Hospital Cuts Deadly Infections

New York Times:
...Every room and corridor is equipped with dispensers of foamy hand sanitizer. Blood pressure cuffs are discarded after use, and each room is assigned its own stethoscope to prevent the transfer of microorganisms. Using these and other relatively inexpensive measures, the hospital has significantly reduced the number of patients who develop deadly drug-resistant infections, long an unaddressed problem in American hospitals.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projected this year that one of every 22 patients would get an infection while hospitalized — 1.7 million cases a year — and that 99,000 would die, often from what began as a routine procedure. The cost of treating the infections amounts to tens of billions of dollars, experts say....

Several European countries, including the Netherlands and Finland, have all but eliminated MRSA through similarly aggressive campaigns. But at many American hospitals, experts say, high infection rates have been accepted as a cost of doing business. Barely a quarter of American hospitals screen patients for bacterial colonies in any methodical way, a recent survey found.

“People don’t believe it’s in their institution, and, if it is, that it’s too big to do anything about, that you just have to accept it...

...[S]ome infection-control experts warn that [certain measures] may have unintended consequences, including lesser care for patients who linger in isolation. Studies have found that patients in isolation are seen by hospital staff members half as frequently and tend to suffer more from falls, bed sores and stress. ...

A major emphasis at the Pittsburgh hospitals has been hand hygiene. Studies have consistently shown that busy hospital workers disregard basic standards more than half the time. At the veterans hospital, where nurses have taken to pushing elevator buttons with their knuckles, annual spending on hand cleaner has doubled.

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