Hospital acquired infections have become almost routine. These infections are often referred to in terms of epidemics. However, it need not be the case.
Simple hygiene can prevent many of these infections. Unfortunately, simple hygiene is sorely lacking in many hospitals.
An article addressing hand sanitation in hospitals that I came across this morning is interesting for a number of reasons. First, the article suggests that if healthcare workers are given their own individual hand sanitizers, proper usage will increase.
Second, the article addresses the fact that the publicly used hand sanitizers actually become hotbeds of bacteria themselves further necessitating the use of individual dispensers by healthcare professionals, and by implication the public visiting the facilities.
However, most remarkable from the story, is the suggestion that the compliance rate for usage of sanitizers was very low prior to the test issuance of individual sanitizers. More interesting still is the fact that even the improved rates of compliance are completely unacceptable in light of the so-called “epidemic” of hospital-acquired infections.
Specifically, the article cites studies from the American Society of Anesthesiologists, where it was found that in cases without individual dispensers, “compliance pre- and post-patient contact was 23 percent and 43 percent respectively.” It seems that most patients and their families would find this number pretty astounding and completely unacceptable.
Remarkably, following the issuance of the dispensers, the article again cites the studies‘ findings that the rate of compliance improved to 52 percent and 72 percent, pre- and post-patient contact respectively. Is this really acceptable?
Should a patient really be expected to accept the fact that medical professionals will properly sanitizes their hands only 52% of the time prior to interaction with the patient? Should patients and their families be forced to endure such odds? What about the mere 72% compliance rate following contact with a patient? Should we all simply accept that chances are we will be exposed to our hospital neighbor‘s illness?
There is so much outrage in the medical and insurance communities over the so-called medical malpractice crisis. The fact is the crisis itself is a myth as these suits have declined dramatically over the last 20 years.
Moreover, any crisis that may exist, such as the hospital acquired infections epidemic, is self-imposed and could quickly readily be averted through fairly simple hygiene. Most of us learned this hygiene in our youth. Sadly, those most in need of these lessons, have failed to take note.
Patients should be treated with decency and care. They should not unnecessarily be exposed to infections or illness. This, it seems, would be a given. But the numbers suggest otherwise.