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Preventable infections

Many hospitals ignore protocols that would prevent infections

Sunday, March 02, 2014 by: PF Louis
Tags: preventable infections, hospital protocols, iatrogenic disease

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(NaturalNews) With 100,000 Americans a year killed by healthcare-associated infections and adding approximately $33 billion in excess medical costs, you'd think something isn't being done the way it's supposed to be.

And that's a fact, according to the most comprehensive study on hospital infection protection in three decades.

A research group at Columbia School of Nursing surveyed compliance with evidence-based policies for infection prevention in 1,653 intensive care units (ICUs) at 975 hospitals nationwide. The study was led by Professor of Health Policy Patricia Stone, PhD, MPH, RN, and published in the American Journal of Infection Control earlier this year, 2014.

The study's details

The study focused on three of the most common preventable infections that can occur in ICUs.

Central line-associated bloodstream infections from catheters and feeding tubes, ventilator-associated pneumonia from ventilators used to help people who can't breathe on their own and catheter-associated urinary tract infections are areas that have especially been the focus of determining clinical infection protection guidelines with checklists for decades.

Yet, full compliance to those checklists was discovered to be lacking considerably. The study found that around one in 10 hospitals lack checklists to prevent bloodstream infections, and one in four lack checklists to help avoid pneumonia in ventilator patients. The study also found that these checklists are followed only about half of the time.

In some cases, this was due to insufficient staff. One person should be in charge of monitoring and supervising infection protection checklists, and around a third of the hospitals surveyed didn't have an active permanent position filled by a clinical infection protection expert to do that.

Those central line-associated infections are the most hazardous. Any dangerous infectious material can be fed directly into the bloodstream by a feeding tube or catheter set up for instant IV (intravenous) transmissions. The most important prevention focus is simply on keeping those items undamaged and sanitized, while changing the surrounding dressing if it gets wet or dirtied.

When it comes to ventilators, some simple procedures to protect against pneumonia infections involve cleaning equipment thoroughly and elevating ventilator patient to keep the head higher. With all cases, hand washing is imperative.

The worst off were urinary catheter ICU patients. Infection protection policies exist, but they're relatively new, and one-third of ICUs had no established protocols to protect against infections from urinary tract catheters. Hospitals that did have such protocols were in compliance only 30% of the time.

It does just take one infection from one device on an immune-compromised patient to cause serious problems and add to the iatrogenic (caused from medical interventions) diseases and death toll. Professor Stone not only headed the Columbia study but over the years has helped develop the infection-protection policies that should be uniformly in place and monitored.

Professor Stone exclaimed, "Every hospital should see this research as a call to action -- it's just unconscionable that we're not doing every single thing we can, every day, for every patient, to avoid preventable infections."

Commentary: If around 100,000 people die from preventable infections in hospitals annually, how many more survive after a serious bout with one of those preventable diseases complicating one's treatment? And what kind of reporting takes place after someone is killed by a "preventable" infectious disease or gets very ill from one? How would the death certificate read?

It will probably offer a cover story. If it's easy to say that one died of cancer instead of chemo or radiation and everyone accepts it, or that your baby's death after vaccination was not vaccine-related, it's even easier to cover those iatrogenic hospital complications that occur from infections due to minor carelessness, and get away with it.

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