Infections acquired in hospitals are an important cause of death especially those in the blood stream or lung. The facts are frightening, and as many as 10% of patients hospitalised will come down with infection, often due to the care that is supposed to be restoring their health.
Infections are not inevitable, and there are many steps that both the patient and hospital staff can do to reduce the incidence of hospital acquired infections.
Hospitals have rigorous programs for cleaning, but how well trained are the cleaners? Studies reported in the Wall Street Journal showed there were many scientific advances to improve the system of cleaning in hospitals. One reported was the use of fluorescent markers which were used following cleaning. Alarmingly they showed that bathroom light switches, door knobs, nurses call buttons and grab rails were all routinely contaminated after cleaning.
After showing the results of these tests to the cleaners and training them to do better there was a marked reduction in the incidence of contamination from these surfaces.
Apart from high tech investigations there are many simple steps the staff can take to minimise and prevent infection. The most simple and basic of these is to ensure that the staff wash their hands regularly. Hospitals that place dispensers of alcoholic based hand sanitizers in many locations, including patient’s rooms, hallways, elevators and nursing stations report a dramatic increase with compliance with hand washing hygiene from less than 50% to more than 80% of staff. This in turn results in dramatic improvements in infection rates.
Patients need sensible principles to manage their own health care and become active partners in their health care. This includes periods of hospitalisation leaving them vulnerable to the development of infections with many types of medical procedures, particularly surgery.
There are several things patients can do to help prevent infection from developing in hospitals. These include:
- Washing hands carefully, particularly after going to the bathroom.
- Do not be afraid to request that doctors and nurses wash their hands before working on you.
- If you have a dressing on a wound let the nursing staff know promptly if it becomes loose or gets wet.
- If you are a diabetic ensure your blood sugar is well controlled during your hospital stay and subsequently, as high blood sugar increases the risk of infection.
- If you are a smoker it will make you vulnerable to lung infections in hospital so stopping smoking before your hospital stay will reduce the likelihood of this occurring, and may improve your healing abilities.
- Ask your friends and relatives not to visit you if they feel unwell.
Whilst it is not possible to eliminate the risk of infection completely, it is apparent that even simple measures are available to help reduce the incidence and severity of hospital acquired infections.
If you believe you have suffered an injury as a result of an inpatient hospital stay, then you may have a claim against the hospital. If you would like more information about medical negligence claims and what you can do call Stacks Goudkamp on 1800 25 1800 or make an online enquiry for a free no obligation consultation.
Written by Julie Mahony.