Only 6% of hospitals perform well in preventing the occurrence of infectious diseases according to a new Consumer Reports study compiled from data supplied to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) from 3,000 hospitals in the United States over a one-year period. Annually, more than 648,000 patients are diagnosed with hospital-acquired infections resulting in more than 75,000 deaths each year. This staggering figure is more than twice the number of people killed each year on American roads yet where is no uproar over the rampant spread of infectious disease, or a demand that hospitals do more to prevent infection?
Hospitals were evaluated based on how well they prevent five different infections including central line-acquired blood infections, catheter-acquired urinary tract infections, surgical site infections and antibiotic resistant superbugs like MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and C. diff. (Clostridium difficile).
Most of our local hospitals did not fare well in the infection prevention ratings including Jewish Hospital, Norton Hospital and University of Louisville Hospital in Louisville, and Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services in New Albany, Indiana, and Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown. Some of the individual hospitals did better than others in specific categories but all scored poorly in the overall ratings.
One local exception was Baptist Hospital East, which did well in preventing MRSA, but also scored poorly in preventing C. diff.
Doris Peter, Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center Director explained that low ratings are “a sign that the hospitals are not doing enough to control those infections, that they need to do those things that we’ve asked them to do, and for C. difficile, that’s stopping overprescribing antibiotics, and for MRSA, it is proper hygiene within the hospital.”
Hospitals are the battlefield where superbugs are growing in intensity and it is the responsibility of each hospital, and each worker within the hospital, to follow all protocols for safety and cleanliness to help prevent the spread of infection. As Dr. Tom Frieden, M.D., Director of the CDC explained, “Hospitals can be hot spots for infections and can sometimes amplify spread. Patients with serious infections are near sick and vulnerable patients—all cared for by the same health care workers sometimes using shared equipment.”
In a written statement disputing the dire findings of the Consumer Reports, the American Hospital Association argued that the number of infectious diseases reported do not tell the whole story because some hospitals are doing more testing than others to detect infectious disease and help prevent infection. “Hospitals that are actually doing more to prevent infections could appear to be doing worse in this analysis.”
Consumer Reports recommendations to help prevent the spread of infectious disease:
What can you do to protect yourself against infectious disease when you are a patient or a visitor in a hospital or healthcare facility?
Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center Director Doris Peter, Ph.D. warned, “Hospitals need to stop infecting their patients. Until they do, patients need to be on high alert whenever they enter a hospital, even as visitors.”
Once you’ve been discharged from the hospital, watch for potential warning signs of infectious disease like fever, diarrhea, increasing pain, or infection coming from an incision site. Call your doctor and seek immediate medical attention if you suffer from any of these symptoms.
If hospitals and healthcare facilities fail to improve their inadequate infection prevention methods, odds are against consumers when it comes to avoiding hospital-acquired infectious disease. If you or a loved one has to be in a hospital, healthcare or long-term facility, we recommend a pro-active approach: take steps to limit your exposure to infectious disease, always ask questions of doctors and healthcare workers, and demand safety and cleanliness for yourself and your loved ones.