This past March, researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine the results of a multistate survey of health care associated infections. The results of the research indicate that in 2011, the most recent year of data, approximately 648,000 patients became infected directly as a result of their health care. Of those, an estimated 75,000 patients died.
Cross-contamination of patients receiving medical care is nothing new. During the Civil War, surgeons inadvertently spread disease among injured soldiers by amputating limbs and not washing their hands or surgical instruments between procedures. It has long been known that neck ties worn by doctors seeing patients in hospitals were contaminated. Because of the concern of spreading disease from one patient to another, many health care providers have even recommended that wristwatches, name badges, and lab coats not be worn when seeing patients.
Against this long history of hospital-acquired infections, hospitals are beginning to implement dress codes specifically for the purpose of reducing hospital-acquired infections. Jacksonville based Baptist Health has recently started providing its staff with lab coats and scrubs which are resistant to disease causing pathogens in an effort to reduce the number infections that occur in its six hospitals (Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, Baptist Medical Center Beaches, Baptist Medical Center South, Baptist Medical Center Nassau, Baptist Heart Hospital, and Wolfson Children’s Hospital).
While hospitals and healthcare providers are well aware of dangers of hospital-acquired infections, patients are not. However, when informed, they can also take an active role to reduce such illnesses. HealthDay.com recommends the following to avoid hospital acquired infections:
- Insist that doctors and nurses wash their hands before examining you or a loved one.
- Wash your own hands carefully after using the bathroom or handling soiled materials.
- If you’re receiving fluids through an intravenous catheter, let your nurse know if the dressing around it becomes wet or soiled.
- Infections from urinary catheters are common, so insist that these dressings should be clean and dry, and the catheter should not remain in longer than necessary.
- Keep an eye on wound dressings and drainage tubes, and let your nurse know if they become loose or wet.
- Ask friends and family not to visit if they’re feeling ill.
- If you need surgery and are overweight, losing a few pounds before you go in the hospital can help reduce your risk of post-surgery infection.
- If you have diabetes, keep a sharp eye on your blood sugar. High blood sugar increases your risk of infection. Work with your doctor to control your blood sugar before, during, and after your hospital stay.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask about infection control measures. Understanding your treatment plan will make it easier for you to be involved in your own recovery.
- If you smoke, there’s no better time to stop. Smoking can increase your risk of developing a lung infection and may hamper your healing abilities.
If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury due to hospital-acquired infections or medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation. At Terrell • Hogan, we represent the injured as they seek justice. We want to help make sure that if you or your loved ones have been injured, your rights are protected.