Hospitals: not always the cure

By Brittany Liberatore
February 1, 2007

Meghan Hurley

Ninety thousand Americans a year die from infections that they picked up from unsanitary hospitals, according to the AARP Bulletin. Hospital infections have become the eighth leading cause of death in this country. Hospitals have become a major source of infection.

One out of 20 people who enter a U.S. hospital leaves with more than just a visit with a sick friend or a successful surgery; they sometimes receive an added bonus, an infection. Not every hospital infection is fatal. However, the infections have the ability to halt recovery and some require another stay in the hospital for medical care, which may include intravenous antibiotics or surgery.

“I’m outraged by this,” Justina Johnson, a junior English and communication major, said. Johnson, like many people, has loved ones who are in the hospital and after learning about the number of people who fall ill to hospital infections she was concerned.

Johnson said, “When you go to a hospital you are supposed to be safe; it’s supposed to be the most sanitary place.”

In Pennsylvania approximately 19,000 hospital infections were acquired during 2005. This is a 63 percent increase from the 11,600 cases of infection in 2004, according to a report by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. Pennsylvania has become the first state to gather this infection data from the hospitals throughout the state.

“I guess that sometimes things don’t get cleaned properly and some hospitals are understaffed so things just don’t get done,” Bernadette Dolan, a sophomore business major, said. Dolan, although aware that people do acquire infections from hospitals, was surprised to learn how extreme the situation was.

Although there is an increase in the amount of hospitals that are recognizing the problem of infection and working to decrease the percentage of people who fall ill, it is harder as the time passes because more and more illnesses have become resistant to antibiotics. In 2004, 63 percent of staph germs were resistant to drugs, an extremely large increase compared to the mere two percent that had developed a resistance in 1974, according to the AARP Bulletin.

Over time there has been an increased awareness about hospital infections. The Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths is a non-profit organization, whose main goal is to supply cleaner hospital care to all patients. RID is motivated to reach out to hospitals to create awareness about the risk of hospital infection and not only educate doctors and hospital staff on how to prevent infections but also the financial side of the situation. It is estimated that hospital infections add $30.5 billion to the U.S. heath care cost each year, according to RID’s website.

“The money that is added to the health care costs because of hospital infections could be used for other programs, like Medicare or Medicaid,” Cristina Romano, a senior philosophy major, said.

Along with creating committees, informing patients and educating hospitals on taking precaution, there are many things patients can do to protect themselves. To help avoid hospital infections patients are urged to wash their hands frequently, remind doctors and nurses to do the same, ask to be prescribed antibiotics before surgery and ask any visitors to stay away if they are sick.

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Brittany Liberatore

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