Tom Ballard, ND's blog


Hospitals are sick houses
October 21, 2010, 11:59 am
Filed under: Commentary | Tags: , , , , ,

Where I have my car worked on the mechanics place a paper mat on the floor and seat to prevent the transfer of grease from the engine compartment to the upholstery. If our hospitals were as cautious about transferring germs, about 100,000 lives could be saved every year. That’s the number of people that are known to die of hospital acquired infections every year.

The death rate from hospital infections is probably much higher than this since it is well known that most hospitals do not monitor or keep accurate statistics. According to Peter Pronovost, MD, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, there are no measurable, achievable and routine strategies to prevent patient harm in our nation’s hospitals. Dr Pronovost blames doctor arrogance for much of the problem.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, 5-10% of those admitted to hospitals will acquire an infection. It is estimated that hospital infections are the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and cost 6 billion dollars a year.

How could this be? Yes, hospital patients often have compromised immune systems.  More importantly, there is a lack of what is known as “hand hygiene.”  According to a 2003 study by the CDC, 52% of doctors did not wash their hands between patients. They also found that hand hygiene was only practiced by 29-48% of hospital employees.

In spite of all our knowledge, nothing much has changed about hospitals since the Middle Ages where people knew they were going to die. Arrogance, according to Dr Pronovost, plays a role. I would add; disregard for basic science.  If your model for treating disease is to give a drug, then you neglect such basics as hand washing.

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