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247 Americans Die Every Day from Doctors not Washing Their Hands

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: doctors, hand washing, health news

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(NaturalNews) A study commissioned by the lead hospital accrediting agency in the United States found that doctors and nurses fail to wash their hands with alarming frequency, contributing to the 247 deaths caused each day by preventable hospital infections.

The Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities, has joined with eight major hospitals to address low hand washing rates nationwide. The program began in the spring, when the hospitals conducted rigorous assessments of hand washing compliance among their staff. They found that doctors and nurses washed their hands only 30 to 70 percent of the time that they entered or exited a patient's room, averaging 50 percent.

Hand washing upon entering and exiting a room is a key part of the Joint Commission accreditation requirements and has been recommended by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Hospitals or other facilities cited for more than two violations must be cited.

The hospitals then assessed what obstacles were preventing health care providers from adequately washing their hands. In some cases, the problems were logistical and easy to fix by means such as moving hand washing stations to more convenient locations or adding stands where workers could put down objects they might be carrying. In other cases, problems seem to stem from an attitude of impunity and are harder to fix.

"Certainly there are some individuals who believe they are above the law,'' Joint Commission President Mark Chassin said, "and their peers and others are reluctant to call their omissions to their attention."

Hospitals have tried to address these problems through techniques such as constant monitoring and reorganizations of hospital hierarchies.

"It seems really simple, but even this one turns out to be complicated," Chassin said.

Since the implementation of corrective strategies, hand washing compliance at the participating hospitals has risen to 74 percent, still short of the long-term goal of 90 percent.

"The acid test is sustainability," Chassin said. "They want to be above 90 percent all the time, consistently with no variation."

Sources for this story include: www.sfgate.com; prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com.
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