Hospitals pride themselves on their cleanliness and sterile procedures. But as a recent article from Huffington Post discussed, one in 20 patients contracts an infection while they are in the hospital, and almost 100,000 people die of these preventable infections each year. The problem may be even worse since these statistics do not include outpatient surgery centers, nursing homes and other types of medical facilities.
As a patient, there are several things you can do to protect yourself. The best way is to avoid going to hospitals at all, if possible. Failing that, the most important measure by far is to insist that everyone who comes into your room washes their hands and changes gloves, especially if it is a medical professional who will be touching you. This might sound obvious, but doctors are often the biggest culprits. A report in the Annals of Medicine found that hand-washing rates among doctors were only 40 to 60 percent on a good day.
Visitors should also wash their hands. Even non-medical personnel can spread germs between patients. Many hospitals have installed hand-washing stations in every room and a friendly reminder is usually all that is necessary.
IVs, catheters and central lines can also cause infection. Medical staff often leaves them inserted so as to prevent the inconvenience and discomfort of reinserting them if they are needed. But this accommodation to convenience must be balanced against the fact that these connections provide a direct line into the patient’s bloodstream and a source for fast-moving, sometimes deadly bacteria. Of course many patients require these devices. But it is always important to ask your doctor if the lines can be removed.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially if you are considering an elective or non-emergency hospital stay. What is the hospital’s rate of infection and how does it compare to previous years' incidence? What does the hospital do to reduce the rate of infection? In addition to the concrete information you receive, you can learn a great deal about the hospital’s attitude toward the increasing problem of hospital-acquired infections.
If you believe that an infection you contracted during a hospital stay could have been prevented, contact a medical negligence lawyer today.