Serious Hospital Infections Rise

We have been following the problem with <"">hospital-acquired infections and the impact of these contaminations. Now, The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that hospitals in the United States do not protect patients from infections that can turn deadly, citing a Health and Human Services (HHS) department report.

The HHS’s 2009 quality report to Congress indicated that “very little progress” has taken place on eliminating hospital-acquired infections; the report called for “urgent attention,” said the AP. The report also found that of the five most serious hospital-related infections, three showed increases and one showed no progress said the AP. Of the major types, only one declined, added the AP, which noted that some 98,000 people die annually from medical errors, preventable infections, and medication mix-ups. According to Kathleen Sebelius, HHS Secretary, the report is “a pretty clear diagnosis of some of the gaps and shortcomings in our nation’s health care system,” quoted the AP.

Under the new health care overhaul mandates, these mistakes will come with financial “consequences,” said the AP, explaining that, in the future, there will be a reduction in Medicare payments to those hospitals with preventable readmissions and for specific infections that can be avoided with basic nursing care.

We recently wrote that infections patients caught in hospitals in 2006 killed 48,000 and a cost a whopping $8.1 billion, citing a study funded by Resources for the Future. Although the issue of hospital-acquired infections has been gaining speed in media outlets, the study was the first of its kind to attach a price to the problem, noted Reuters previously. Experts feel that problems such as this are adding to the growing cost of health care in the United States. “In many cases, these conditions could have been avoided with better infection control in hospitals,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan of Resources for the Future, quoted Reuters. The team said some 1.7 million healthcare-associated infections are diagnosed annually, wrote Reuters.

The AP reported that the U.S. spends a massive $2.5 trillion annually on medical care; however, according to the studies, care is not always provided as recommended: Hospital care is considered better versus outpatient facility care and quality of care suffered for minorities and lower-income demographics, such as the uninsured.

Although the Institute of Medicine began a program to increase medical error awareness over a decade ago, the new statistics indicate little improvement. “We know that focused attention to eliminating health care acquired infections can reduce them dramatically,” said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, head of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which conducted the studies, quoted the AP.

Among other issues, the report found that bloodstream infections following surgery and urinary infections following catheter use after surgery increased; common infections following medical care increased, said the AP. Bloodstream infections following central venous catheter administration did not change; however, there was a small drop in pneumonia following surgery, wrote the AP. Bloodstream infections, considered the most serious, can be fatal, noted the AP.

Preventing infection is relatively simple, explained Reuters earlier this year, and involves careful hand washing, hygiene, and screening patients when they check in; however, many studies have found that these measures are difficult to enforce.

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