Hospital-Acquired Infections: 1 in 25 Patients Becomes Infected While in the Hospital

I know several people who went into the hospital for a routine surgery, came through the surgery just fine, and then died from an infection they had gotten while in the hospital.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me angry.

Hospitals and doctor’s offices (not to mention dentists) need to beef up their sterile procedures, beginning with washing their hands between every single patient. When you see a doctor look down someone’s throat and then not wash their hands afterwards, you are looking at an infection-carrier.

It turns out that the people I’ve known who died from hospital-acquired infections are not alone. According to a recent study by the New England Journal of Medicine, 1 in 25 patients who went into a hospital in 2011 come out with a hospital-acquired infection. That means 721,800 people were infected by germs they encountered while they were in the hospital. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, about 75,000 people died from hospital-acquired infections.

This rate of infection is evidently down from past years. In 2002, there were 1.7 million hospital-acquired infections and 155,668 deaths. Getting down to 75,000 deaths is quite a reduction, and hospitals are to be applauded for the changes they’ve made. But 75,000 deaths in one year from hospital-acquired infections is still totally unacceptable.

It may be necessary for patients to start reminding medical personnel to wash their hands, since they are not doing it on their own. As for other sterile procedures, particularly surgical sterile procedures;  if they aren’t washing their hands (and they aren’t) then what else are they not doing?

The families and friends of 75,000 people who die each year would like to know.

From CNN:

(CNN) – About 1 in every 25 patients seeking treatment at hospitals acquired an infection there in 2011, according to a new study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Patients acquired some 721,800 infections at hospitals that year, according to the research. Of those infected, about 75,000 died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — although the study did not investigate how often an infection actually caused or contributed to the patient’s death.

Pneumonia and surgical-site infections were the most common types of infection — each accounting for about 22% of all infections — followed by gastrointestinal infections such as Clostridium difficile, urinary tract infections and infections of the bloodstream.

While highlighting the grim reality that too many people become infected when seeking medical treatment in hospitals and other health care facilities, the study also shows progress from past estimates.

  • pagansister

    My husband had surgery a month ago, and I was very glad he only had to stay in hospital for 2 1/2 days. I had heard of the infections from hospital stays, and didn’t want him in there any longer than totally necessary.

  • EMS

    Several years ago, my mother spent over a week in 2 different hospitals before being admitted to a rehab clinic. The day she arrived in rehab, she was sent to the emergency room for pneumonia! Fortunately, it wasn’t a bad case, but it could have been. My father got a staph infection while he was in a nusing home for a week (for caregiver relief) when he was in hospice. He was gone within a couple of months. As the above makes clear, it is not an uncommon occurrence. In the 19th century before Pasteur and other medical men of vision, hospitals were places where people went to die. It’s shocking that 150 years later, it’s happening again.

    • hamiltonr

      I agree.

  • SisterCynthia

    A few thoughts… on why we are experiencing these things…
    Creation of “super bugs” thru irresponsible over perscription of antibiotics on the part of PCPs, and irresponsible failure to follow full courses of antibiotics on the part of some dunderheaded patients (doesn’t take everyone, just some).
    Incomplete training of less-credentialed staff (ex: the bonehead who took a short course to do blood draws and is now traipsing thru hospitals, oblivious to cross-contamination from patient to patient… saw that IN PERSON while in school!).
    Laziness on the part of trained staff who know better.
    Bulligerence on the part of visitors who WILL NOT follow precautions and who spread infections from rooms out into other areas where they are then tracked further around the facility.
    Overbooking patients and understaffing floors to maximize profits, leading to staff running raggedly from one crisis to the next, increasingly likelihood of errors.
    Demanding 12+hr shiftwork by staff, so that they are so rummy by the 9th or 11th hour they can forget what they know to do and MEAN to do.
    Those are just some thoughts. I would definitely not undergo any procedures not necessary, nor would I opt to stay as an inpatient any longer than necessary, and if going to be seriously incapacitated, would want a strong friend/family member there to make sure the staff stays honest. Seriously, almost every staff person wants to do an honorable job, but… stuff happens. In light of that, self-advocating is your best bet. That and prayer. :-/

  • cmom

    The first thing my greatly loved 88 year old aunt received after her first week or so in rehab for her recovery from a broken hip was MERSA. She hasn’t stopped throwing up yet.

    • EMS

      I sincerely pray that your aunt is much better. Unfortunately, that’s what Dad had, and since he had zero reserves left at that point . . . MERSA is really bad for everyone, even healthy people.


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