The gruesome math of hospital infections
April 14th, 2011
05:29 PM ET

The gruesome math of hospital infections

A column in yesterday’s New York Times by Maureen Dowd about how her brother died after acquiring infections in the hospital certainly struck a nerve – it was No. 1 on the paper’s website for much of the day.

No wonder, considering the number of people who die of infections as her brother did.

“The simplest way to say this is that about 100,000 people die each year from infections we give them in the hospital,” says Dr. Peter Pronovost, director of the Quality and Safety Research Group at Johns Hopkins  University. “That’s enormous.”The math, he says, is pretty gruesome. Take the two most deadly types of infections hospitals give their patients: infections from ventilators and infections from catheters. Together, those kill 65,000 people a year. There are about 5,000 hospitals in the United  States, so statistically, each hospital in the United States gives these deadly infections to one patient every month.

In her column, Dowd described how her brother went into the hospital with pneumonia and quickly contracted four other infections in the intensive care unit. When she asked a doctor why this was happening, he told her, “It could be anything.’”

This is exactly the kind of attitude that’s killing patients, Pronovost says.

“What really struck me most in Maureen’s column was the physician’s lack of accountability,” he explains. “He didn’t see this as his problem. It was like, ‘Well, this stuff happens.’”

Pronovost says the doctor viewed hospital-acquired infections as being in the “inevitable bucket” when really they’re in the “preventable bucket.” He says when hospitals have taken simple steps they’ve managed to reduce pneumonia infections associated with ventilators by 70%.

He says there are two particularly important things families can do when a loved one is in the hospital. One, they should ask everyone who comes in contact with the patient to wash his or her hands. Two, if the patient is on a catheter or a ventilator, they should ask every day if it can come out, since these pieces of equipment are ripe locations for infections.

For more tips on preventing infections at the hospital, see these Empowered Patient tips.

soundoff (740 Responses)
  1. Jack

    And then after billing for that "consult", the doctor walked out to his Porsche GT3 and drove away.

    April 14, 2011 at 18:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cv

      As a guy who does consults and surgery and takes care of some very sick patients, I wash my hands before firing up my GT3.

      April 14, 2011 at 19:58 | Report abuse |
    • ramkuv

      I am a physician and Drive a Suburu Forrester. Some of us still live modestly and actually care for patients.

      April 15, 2011 at 00:04 | Report abuse |
    • hoosier hawk

      Oh he drove away after he went to his car... I figured he'd just go out and look at it. What a Jack.

      April 15, 2011 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
  2. skt117

    I almost died in a hospital from severe adverse reactions to drugs. It's amazing how quickly these doctors send patients on their way, telling them the problems are "in their mind." The medical system in this country is terrifying to me, now that I've had such an extreme experience. Unfortunately I've learned I'm not alone. Something has to be done. It just seems like such an overwhelming problem, I don't even know where to start.

    April 14, 2011 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chark 54

      I agree...I almost died from an infection after having a chest tube for a colapsed lung. Then the doctor said it was all in my head. Thirty years later I am dealing with fibromyalgia and other issues I know were caused from that infection.

      April 14, 2011 at 20:30 | Report abuse |
    • hoosier hawk

      I also almost died in the hospital but the physicians and hospital staff took very good care of me and now I'm fine.

      April 15, 2011 at 10:13 | Report abuse |
    • tjohn0617

      the biggest cause of doctors "hurrying to send patients on thier way" is financial issues. unfortunately a hospital is still a business and they lose money from CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid) or other insurance companies, the longer a patient is in the hospital. its a sad thing but its the truth.

      April 15, 2011 at 10:48 | Report abuse |
    • B.

      "Hooser Hawk", thank you for the reminder that hospitals aren't hotbeds for murder and neglect. There is an aspect of human error in healthcare, but the negative perceptions I see in responses to healthcare-related articles on this site are breathtakingly disheartening for someone who's spent her entire adult life working long shifts with the sincere hope of aiding in the recovery of those entrusted to her care. I'm so happy that you had a good outcome.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse |
    • Bill Clinton

      I was shot seven times and beat over the head 13 times when I was in the hospital. Now I'm fine. Now I'm fine. Now I'm fine. Now I'm fine. Now I'm fine. Now I'm fine. Now I'm fine. Now I'm fine.

      April 15, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
    • mgreen

      My daughter got an infection in both legs due to surgery. She got sepsis. She had a stroke due to a blood clot as a result of surgery. Her kidneys shut down and she had to go on dialysis and her blood pressure was low. She is blind in her right eye. Why did all this happen? Because even though she was in a hospital she was neglected. Doctors need to #1 listen to their patients & #2 communicate with each other. The infection almost killed her, she is on long-term antibiotic therapy. She has been in the hospital for 6 weeks now and we don't really know when she will be able to leave.

      April 15, 2011 at 17:13 | Report abuse |
  3. Kathy S

    Hospital acquired infections are a big problem especially with very ill patients in the ICUs. Most health care workers do everything they can to avoid having patient's develop these infections. I wash my hands in front of every patient I come in contact with. There is a major emphasis to reduce these infections at all levels. Unfortunately even with the most diligent care some very ill patients with compromised immune systems will develop these infecttions. Through years of antibiotic use we have develped bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and despite everyone's effort patient's will get these infections. Blame the doctors if you want but unfortunately we cannot fix everyone and sometimes the bacteria will win.

    April 14, 2011 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • skt117

      I (and every patient) appreciate your diligent effort. I had many experiences in two different hospitals, and I can say that the level of care varies dramatically from facility to facility and care giver to care giver. I understand why you might be defensive in this situation, but unfortunately your meticulously care is not the norm facility wide. We NEED to address this problem and not assume caregivers are always doing everything they can. That assumption is why things are spiraling out of control.

      April 14, 2011 at 19:08 | Report abuse |
    • just sayin

      So, I have an idea, let's get government involved!

      Also, let's do the 'gruesome math'. How many of the patients admitted to ICU's would die if there were no ICU's? Certainly we need to improve in everything we do, but how about patient responsibility as well? Fix me doc... I know I smoke, my blood pressure is too high, I'm 120 lbs overweight and I drink a 12 pack everynight, but you don't understand, you need to make me well!

      April 14, 2011 at 19:28 | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      @just sayin

      What does anything you said have to do with the article being discussed?

      April 15, 2011 at 07:50 | Report abuse |
    • B.

      Thank you for speaking for us, Kathy.

      April 15, 2011 at 11:42 | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      I had back surgery and developed complications, remained in the hospital for 27 days, nearly died, but not once did I acquire an infection. It was in the early 70's and one startling difference is that I didn't have one tube or line in me. Why has there been such an uptick in the lines hanging out of almost every patient now. Sore and bruised arms when discharged. But also, and more importantly, in the early 70's, hospitals were so much cleaner, everyone who treated me wore CLEAN white uniforms with clean white shoes, clean hair up in a cap or styled up, The hospital smelled clean. I work in a well-know and well-reputed midwestern hospital and can't believe what I see most mornings. Nurses and caregivers in general – – forget white uniform or even anything that looks neatly pressed. Everybody in pull up pants and a pull-over top, wrinkled, they look unkempt, and clearly no pride of appearance. I swear lots look like they slept in their cars and rolled out to go to work. Stringy hair hanging all over, pants hanging over the shoes & tracking all kinds of dirt and debris from our parking garage, These people go directly to patient floors, our icu's, our surgical centers, all carrying dirt and dust and whatever is on their uniforms and in their dirty hair. I am NOT being dramatic or exaggerating. Patient bathrooms and rooms that don't get mopped or cleaned everyday. They take the trash and that's about it. I do not wonder one tiny bit why infections are through the roof. I wonder that people escape without getting one. Clean up American's hospitals. I mean really scrubbed clean and that most definitely includes the clinical staff.

      April 15, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
    • bigrick

      I think what Just sayin is just sayin is that half the people who die in hospitals wouldn't even be there in the first place if they took care of themselves. So, they abuse their bodies, expect to the hospitals to fix them...and then don't understand that within these hospital environments, occasionally bad things happen. I think Just sayin is also just sayin that these are the same people who expect the government to take care of their financial & medical needs as well. I think this is what Just sayin is trying to just say

      April 15, 2011 at 15:39 | Report abuse |
    • deborah

      I'm standing in dd. The person infront of me has the dr. scrubs goin. I guess some people need to be recognised in one way or another. A child sneezes towards the scrubs. Everyone goes on about their business. I'm now in the hospital visiting. Guess what. The scrubs. Making rounds. How _______ nasty was that? Drs. and nurses do it all the time all over the place. I think they should NOT be allowed to dress in scrubs outside of the hospital. Drs. and nurses are the biggest germ carriers out there. Because of this our relatives are dying from the germs. Thats why its a STAFF INFECTION......Maybe they should (drs. n nurses) wear regular clothing outside the hospital. Or only scrubs when working with the public.

      April 15, 2011 at 19:44 | Report abuse |
    • B.

      Deborah & Liz: how is it that my changing shoes and uniforms at the hospital door (much less wearing starched, white dresses and a cap that would surely pull out lines and tangle in monitor wires!) would make a difference, when your shoes and clothing–and that of guests/family members–would continue to bring microbes to the bedside? Deborah, have you seen the droplet pattern a sneeze can produce? YOU were wearing those microbes on your clothing, too, and you arrived in the same place as that person who was wearing scrubs. Hospitals are a clean environment, but hospital bedsides, for the most part, aren't sterile. I shower at lest once daily, my blue (not white! how awful!) uniforms are washed each time they're worn, I wash my hands till the antibacterial soap makes them crack and bleed (and then I keep washing them), and I wear isolation gowns and other PPE's when they are indicated. My shoes are also wiped down with clorox on a regular basis (are yours?). Nostalgia won't replace facts (well said, Kelli!), but some cooperation (rather than unfounded accusations) would be lovely.

      April 15, 2011 at 22:21 | Report abuse |
  4. Kush

    I certainly believe that when a patient gets discharged, the beds and equipment should ATLEAST be sprayed down or wiped with some anti-bacterial wipes. I have seen doctors and many surgeons as a nurse myself not wiping or sanitizing their equipment after performing operations and it really sickens me.

    April 14, 2011 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Been Around

      I have never seen any doctor to include surgeons sanitize their own equipment....they have other people do it....perhaps such as yourself if you really are a nurse.

      April 15, 2011 at 02:06 | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      Kush, the doctors and surgeons aren't the ones who are supposed to be wiping down equipment. That's the job of the techs, support staff, and... NURSES! What a concept! Those doctors didn't go through grueling years of medical school and residency so they can wipe down gurneys and bedpans. Get over it.

      April 15, 2011 at 10:01 | Report abuse |
    • b

      Kush, if you are a nurse and you see a doctor (or another staff member) touch a patient without washing his hands, it is your responsiblity to advocate for the patient and remind the doctor to wash his hands. Families should also be encouraged to advocate for their patient and remind caregivers to wash their hands. As a pediatric oncology nurse, I always tell families that they are their child's advocate and it is okay to ask hospital caregivers to wash (or rewash as there are sinks located outside of the rooms) their hands.

      April 15, 2011 at 10:13 | Report abuse |
    • Kelli

      Kush, I work in a hospital (ICU nurse), and the equipment is wiped down, especially after a patient leaves, but also in between uses. It is the reponsibility of all to maintain a clean environment, especially nurses, who have a special responsibility to maintain a clean, healing place. The high rate of infections is multifactorial...we have to accept that if we do not clean our stethoscopes between patients or wash our hands well, we are to blame. But, it has to be understood how vulnerable our patients are...they are sick, have weakened immune systems, and invasive interventions are vectors for germs. I won't mention the visitors who get mad when I ask them to wash their hands before touching a patient just out of open heart surgery. Finally, to all who seem to thing otherwise, a white uniform is not sterile simply because it is white. Be nostalgic for Nelly Nurse if you must, but those of us in the profession take a more sophisticated (read, scientific) view of infection control.

      April 15, 2011 at 16:54 | Report abuse |
    • deborah

      When my mother was in re-hab the man handling the food trays was also the man helping my mother on and off the toilet... YES the toilet. HE put the trays on the side, picked my mother up helped her to the toilet went back to the trays came back to my mother and helped her back to bed. Needless to say she died from an infection 2 days later. In re-hab. She had insurance. Real insurance...She shouldn't have died.....Lets see who can top that

      April 15, 2011 at 19:53 | Report abuse |
  5. Dr Deb Raines

    A recent study showed hospital errors are 10x's more likely than previously known. Resistant bugs, most likely from overuse of antibiotics, are one of the major causes of hospital complications. I wrote a blog with 5 tips to help you survive your hospital stay and prevent common medical mistakes if you want to check it out.

    April 14, 2011 at 19:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. bruce

    i went in to have my gallbladder out and ended up with mrsa

    April 14, 2011 at 19:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. wayoutwest

    Bruce, the same thing happened to my husband. In for surgery and out with MRSA. He has been tested numerous times since with negative results, but they will not take the MRSA status off his record. So, every time he goes to the hospital now they treat him like a leper because after all he has MRSA.

    April 14, 2011 at 20:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bruce

      full gowns and masks

      April 14, 2011 at 20:33 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Tell it to your senator, honey! It is they, not us, who pass they laws. Do you think we LIKE putting on a hazmat suit for patients without MRSA?

      April 15, 2011 at 00:59 | Report abuse |
    • To Bruce

      Masks are not required for MRSA isolation, as it is a contact isolation, only gowns.

      April 15, 2011 at 02:02 | Report abuse |
    • tensor

      Part of the solution is for Americans to take better care of themselves and do everything humanly possible to avoid nasty hospitals, except for emergencies. It made a big impact on the way everyone in my family approaches nutrition and exercise after my otherwise healthy mom went into the hospital for routine surgery and came out with typhoid fever that nearly killed her and did weaken her heart. One year later, she nearly died from a heart attack her doc admitted was likely the result of that hospital infection.

      April 15, 2011 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
  8. Mia

    Oh my gosh, another cohen article! if she's so scared of the medical establishments, she should just let her mom die from breast cancer. i forgot, she's a coward and can't do it.

    April 14, 2011 at 20:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      God, it is by 'the empowered witch'!

      April 15, 2011 at 01:00 | Report abuse |
  9. martin

    MRSA – likely from antibiotic exposure that may have been necessary to treat an infection but sometimes not necessary but you as the consumer go off to your doctor or worse yet show in the ER and demand an antibiotic for your viral infection. So ultimately, its not just the doctor or the hospital responsible but YOU the demanding patient.....folks we're all responsible for this hospital acquired infection problem.

    April 14, 2011 at 21:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • wayoutwest

      WOW, blame the public!! No, he didn't demand anything. He lost a leg, thank you very much!!!

      April 15, 2011 at 00:29 | Report abuse |
    • Health Teach

      And sometimes it's the doctor's... When my youngest son was two he had a double-ear infection, sinus infection, and bronchitus which our regular doctor put him on antibiotics for because he'd had them for more than a week and was getting very sick. Three days later he began having problems breathing and was taken to our local hospital who then sent him via ambulance to a Children's hospital about an hour and a half away from our home. The children's hospital decided that all of of my son's problems must be viral and that our small town doctor, who'd treated him since birth and our family for years, must be incompetent simply because she was a rural doctor. They took him off the antibiotics against our protest and discharged him two days latter with the diagnosis of sever asthma. (Even though this was his first occurrence ever and they NEVER did an x-ray.) Guess what, within a day our son was back at our local hospital with a fever of 105F. The problem? He had bacterial pneumonia and the antibiotics that our primary care doctor had given him were fighting it off but once they were removed it cam back–and with a passion. Our son then required much stronger antibiotics to ward it off and all because a doctor, who was worried about creating a superbug, inadvertently did just that!

      April 15, 2011 at 10:20 | Report abuse |
    • B.

      He did NOT blame the public–he pointed out, rightly, that we all bear some responsibility here.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:26 | Report abuse |
  10. Bill Rhodes

    My dad was admitted for a leukemia work up... Doc said it could be done outpatient, but would take a month or more to get the diagnostics OKed by the insurance and he wouldn't have this problem as an inpatient.

    He got pneumonia and died in 4 days, the day the diagnostic was finished.

    It is overuse of anti-Bs that causes this. They got rid of MRSA in Norway when they outlawed over use of anti-Bs.

    No antibiotics unless there is a confirmed infection, and you won't have a problem with superbugs.

    April 14, 2011 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Debbie

      But you'll have patients dying from 'unconfirmed infections" it's a double edged sword. Actually there's more evidence that the emergence of superbugs has as much to do with ATB contamination of water and food (IE corporate farming) and it's also recommended to discard meds more carefully these days. My husband who has asbestosis and long term asthma developed pneumonia because of the "antibiotics are over prescribed" philosophy. He had always been given ATB at the first sign of chest infection previously and never had a problem before he ran into that nut.

      April 15, 2011 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
  11. r

    MRSA? Go look up the other infections you can pick up, even in intensive care. I believe almost no medical staff can cope with looking at everything they do, all the time, every day, at work with objective eyes and practice the most diligent anti-infection procedures. Even a split second slip up can result in a life-threatening infection transferred to a patient.

    April 14, 2011 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. a little perspective

    seems like complaints here against the medical establishment are contradictory. on one hand some people are complaining that they thought they had an infection, without evidence, and are angry they didn't get an antibiotic. others are angry that a loved one contracted MRSA due to a culture of antibiotic overuse in situtations where they are not warranted. I just hope you realize the difficult balancing act between these two scenarios and stop blaming mother nature. Without modern medicine most of these scenarios would have been fatal anyway, modern medicine's goal is simply to delay the inevitable (death), i don't see it as a doctor's failure when someone dies from infection.

    April 14, 2011 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gaurav

      Hospital plans help people that need it the most where meadcil aids fail. It is definitely a way to go for most people that can not afford meadcil aids. It also helps people with meadcil aids that DO NOT already cover over night stays at hospital.

      November 14, 2012 at 01:29 | Report abuse |
  13. Janet

    my mother trained as a nurse before antibiotics - her texts stressed aseptic procedure. they were obsessive about cleanliness, sterilization and preventing sources of infection. in those days, infection meant death. now it does again. and while the problem of resistant bugs has been created by agricultural use of antibiotics and overuse by the medical establishment, the problem of hospital infection is not caused by resistant bugs. it is caused by the failure to wash hands, to sanitize hospital rooms, to fail to sanitize equipment and exam rooms etc etc.

    April 14, 2011 at 23:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Liz

      I think your mother trained in the best of times. During goold old hard working cleaning. When I had my back surgery, I had to thoroughly shower with betadine twice, once immediately before surgery. Made sense to me that my skin and whole body was as clean and sanitized as it could get. But that doesn't happen now. Whatever is on your skin when they cut you goes right in. Your comments about the vigilant cleanliness is absolutely 100% right. Start with the simple, common sense things. Sanitize, sterilze, scrub floors and get in the corners, and all the old first lines of being clean. You can't foam bathrooms clean, or foam the floors or window sills. It takes human hands and time getting down on hands and knees. I get so sick of smelling all the foams and gels and sprays. I think everyone, hospitals included, have decided that germs and viruses can be sprayed away or dusted away with every aerosole product under the sun.

      April 15, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse |
    • Dr. M

      LIz – this is just so blatantly false I couldn't let it stand. NO surgery is ever performed in the US without skin prep. No the patient is not left to shower themselves with betadine – rather the scrub techs and the surgeon scrub them down while they are knocked out right before surgery. If you showered with betadine, yet then put on a gown and walked to your gurney and were rolled into the OR – you are no longer sterile, right? Some things ARE better now than they were then and these methods are based on evidence based medicine.

      April 15, 2011 at 22:08 | Report abuse |
  14. Jen

    One of the posters here made a good observation. Do the beef/chicken/pork/other meat industries contribute to the overuse of antibiotics problem?

    Also, how do you tell your doctor or nurse to wash your hands before they come in contact with you politely? Most of them will get very annoyed to say the least. I have seen them wash their hands after the exams practically all the time.

    April 15, 2011 at 00:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Stephen

      Once I decided that I must be the voice for my children (6, 3) in a healthcare setting – since they are too young to do so for themselves – speaking up and risking a doctor's or nurse's irritation is no big deal. I just ask them if they washed their hands right outside the room, or if they cleaned that stethoscope after they examined that last patient. When they start to get annoyed, I just explain that I am a germaphobe and I have read about Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAI). Sometimes they push back, but I insist they clean their hands and tools in front of me. I do not care if they get mad. What will they do – misdiagnose my child on purpose? If my child got an HAI and I wasn't sure I had done whatever I could do to prevent it, I would find it hard to forgive myself. So, I just ask and insist. Besides, most of the hospitals have signage in common areas and rooms reminding patients to ask the care providers to clean their hands. You could also reference those signs if you get any pushback.

      April 15, 2011 at 09:54 | Report abuse |
  15. James

    Uh oh, "Senior Medical Correspondent" Cohen with another scintillating article!

    And it goes along with her theme of hating on doctors and nurses who care for patients. I'm with you, Cohen! Get rid of them all, and hospitals too! Then we wouldn't have to do anymore gruesome math about infections–problem solved!

    (end sarcasm)

    April 15, 2011 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Been Around

    How about when the patients family or friends will come into a room with isolation precautions and not adhere to them. They don't wear the gown or mask when called for. They don't wash their hands when entering a room. They don't wash their hands when leaving the room. See it all the tiime.

    April 15, 2011 at 02:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • B.

      AMEN! This week alone, I've been called "the gown police", I've been overtly ignored, I've been laughed at, and I've been treated as though I'm punishing family members who have visited my patients. I've spent, literally, hours trying to explain the components of contact isolation (hand washing, gowns, gloves, etc.) to people who walk blithely past signs that explain what is required of them, bringing with them personal belongings (bags, coats, etc.) and departing with them a few minutes later, potentially carrying contaminents with them as they go. I've seen people insist on kissing their infected family members on the hands, cheeks, and lips (then depart to kiss their grandchildren in the same manner?)
      When I try to (gently, but firmly) explain why this is an unsafe practice, I am treated as the enemy. I'm not without compassion for the fact that people need to express affection, but when I'm reading these posts that fault healthcare facilities for every component of this issue, I'm outraged. I would also add that I'm outraged by people who post their fears about admitting their children and babies to hospitals, but who insist on bringing them into the ICU to visit, in defiance of hospital policy (and logic.) There needs to be some collaboration between healthcare professionals and families/visitors/patients on this issue. Think before entering a room–and if there's something you don't understand, ask about it! When I tell a visitor how to behave, and he or she is noncompliant (willfully or otherwise), these organisms are carried into the community, where they will continue to be transmitted.
      The problem of resistant strains is clear, and the causes have been identified. Most of us are working diligently to control the issue–but this is no longer simply a matter of changing the behavior of employees. Unless there's an active investment by non-healthcare workers (one that goes beyond hurling accusations), we have no hope of success. You speak of taking control of your care? Take ownership of your responsibilities as well.

      April 15, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      They should be stopped and made to comply or be asked to leave the floor. Where are the people in charge? What ever happened to enforced visiting hours too? It's the nurses, doctors, and caregivers job to protect and speak for the patients, because many can't speak for themselves. And don't bring your whole family and neighborhood to visit. Don't bring coolers and baskets of food to sit around & make it a picnic. People wonder around in hospitals like it's an amusement park.

      April 15, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
  17. Renait

    The only things that prompt people to go to medical school are greed and sadism.

    April 15, 2011 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • right on

      $250,000 in debt, spending least 11-20 years in schooling before having a real job and working 80 hours a week is actually more masochism than sadism.

      April 15, 2011 at 10:43 | Report abuse |
    • B.

      Renait–protect yourself!!! Don't ever, ever go to a hospital when you're sick. Never. Ever. There, now, feel better?

      April 15, 2011 at 11:47 | Report abuse |
  18. Tim

    How many people visit hospitals in the US every year?
    How many people die from the ailement that brought them to the hospital in the first place?
    How many people leave the hospital infection free every year after being treated?
    How many people catch an infection in the hospital and are effectivly treated?
    100,000 seems like a very high number, but all the facts are no present.
    100,000 = 1% of 10,000,000. That is not a bad average.
    I imagine that at least 10,000,000 people visit American hospitals every year.

    April 15, 2011 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bacos

      From the CDC:

      Number of visits per year:
      Outpatient:109.9 million
      Emergency Department: 123.8 million
      So this doesn't even include inpatient non-emergency admission...

      April 15, 2011 at 10:43 | Report abuse |
    • chuchingirl

      exactly: the big picture is not being mentioned in this article.......people should just do what they have to do according to the position they have in all of this: being the doctor, nurse, patient, family of the patient, dieticians, maintenance, and/or all the others that can become involved in patient care in a hospital.........the least you can do is wash your hands...........as i've said before, the millions of lives that are being saved/improved and the tons of good things that are done on a daily basis are never highlighted

      April 15, 2011 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
  19. dickie

    i am a nurse and i can tell you hospitals are to blame. they are so focused on profits that they short-staff routinely. this means a nurse that should be caring for 6 patients has 8 or 9. this increase in patients leaves little room for doing a great job and replaces it with a desire for short cuts. i know for a fact that nurses do not always wash hands in between patients (neither do doctors). that is where nosocomials come from. the hospital's answer is to place pretty signage hospital-wide reminding staff to wash their hands. if they really cared about anything but profits they'd staff it adequately.

    April 15, 2011 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. hoosier hawk

    Hmm.. I wonder how many patients DON'T die of a hospital infection?

    April 15, 2011 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cathy W

      I think your point is to look at the actual risk of dying from a *preventable* infection. But without giving us numbers, it's a rhetorical question without much purpose.

      April 15, 2011 at 10:56 | Report abuse |
    • Savannah

      I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in wrtiing this post. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative wrtiing abilities has inspired me to start my own BlogEngine blog now.

      November 16, 2012 at 01:54 | Report abuse |
  21. Cathy W

    This is one of the reason why I had my baby at home, with two CNMs attending. If there had been a complication, I would have gone to hospital in a heart beat. But, if nothing did go wrong, then I'd prefer not to expose me or my newborn to the germs/sick people in the hospital. Hospitals are for sick people. Personally, I think OB units shouldn't even be IN the same building where sick people are kept. A separate building across the parking lot from the main hospital woiuld be much better in my opinion.

    April 15, 2011 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lolly2

      it wouldn't matter because they don't practice sanitation anywhere in hospitals anymore. And it scare me to even think of operating rooms. Are they really cleaner than any other part of the hospital?

      April 15, 2011 at 13:11 | Report abuse |
  22. My family knows too much about this

    My mom has a very complicated medical condition including an immunological disorder and a partially functioning pair of lungs. Every single time she has to go to the hospital (often for the mere sake of having access to IV drugs and regular dr. consultations), she develops several hospital born infections. Inevitably, the infections she contracts there end up being worse than the conditions she came into the hospital in the first place. She even contracted MRSA and it's been with her for almost 5 years now almost took her life multiple times.

    From what I've witnessed, most hospitals treat sanitation as an afterthought. They pay lip service to the signs that say "wash your hands." When a patient bleeds or defecates all over the floor, they barely wash with simple soap and water, never-the-less use a strong disinfectant and HOT water. This is common practice in the ICU areas! Even though the hospital is aware of my mom's MRSA and they are required by hospital codes to require visitors to wear gowns and gloves, the nurses and doctors don't and they are the ones that will turn around and be touching other patients five minutes later. The visitors aren't the ones going around and touching open wounds on dozens of other patients, the staff are and they aren't the ones wearing gowns and face masks!

    April 15, 2011 at 10:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Nuse Lisa

    since we do not live in sterile world, bacteria are everywhere. Most of the time there is a "peaceful" co-existence, however when health becomes compromised due to illness or trauma, formerly healthy tissue may be unable to fight everything at once. Anti-bacterial hand sanitizers are not bacteriacidal – they don't kill bacteria, they just don't promote its growth. Handwashing frequently to prevent cross contamination definitely helps, but as more bacteria become resistant to available treatments, deaths from formerly curable infections will rise .

    April 15, 2011 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. lolly2

    I think it's a matter of sanitation and greed. It used to be that 2 cleaning ladies came in EVERY day and changed bedding, dusted everything, wiped down the beds from top to bottom, cleaned the bathrooms and mopped the floor. 10 yrs ago when I had bypass surgery I was in and out of the hospital for several days for 3 months. NOT ONE TIME did anyone come in to clean anything and the bathroom was filthy. I asked why and the nurse said it was not cost effective!!

    April 15, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. alyson

    a patient shouldn't have to ask the hospital staff to perform daily maintenance on the equipment. it should be standard procedure. I work in a vets office and we don't have animals dying like that. If kennel techs can keep it clean for $8.00 an hour, i think the doctors can keep it clean for $100,000 a year 🙂

    April 15, 2011 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • B.

      Hospitals (which are not, for the most part, privately owned by physicians) have departments full of individuals who are responsible for cleaning (and who are paid a heck of a lot less than $100K/yr., not unlike yourself)–the physicians are paid for other things, as is the vet at your facility. Also, just a guess here, but are the animals repeatedly admitted and housed in your facility for months at a time, and do they receive multiple, long-term antibiotics that can lead to resistant strains? Congrats on your infection control, but you're at least bordering on an "apples and oranges" comparison, here.

      April 15, 2011 at 13:44 | Report abuse |
  26. Johnny

    A couple data points:

    I was in the hospital a few weeks back. I had lactic acidosis from another problem. The nurse gave me an IV that said right on the bag, "do not administer to patients with acidosis." I started feeling much worse and noticed this warning on the bag. She seemed miffed that I asked her to change me back to the saline bag.

    Later, I got a $12,000 bill for this overnight hospital stay. I went down that day and said I couldn't pay it, so they charged me cost: $1,200. No typos in these figures. They normally charge $12,000 for something that costs them $1,200. THAT is what's wrong with our medical system.

    April 15, 2011 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WorldGoneMad

      You are ignorant of the healthcare system. Do some research.

      April 16, 2011 at 12:04 | Report abuse |
  27. rudy

    I went in for an emergency appendectomy in the late 90's. Came out of surgery fine but got a severe ecoli infection and remained in the hospital from a routine surgery for 11 days. Doctor that did the surgery even came in and told me that if this had happenend 20 years ago I would have died. I couldn't be released until my bowels started working and the anesthesia wore off. My only issue is that durign this wait and see period, no one on the hospital staff checked my incision site for 3 days until I developed a 104 degree fever. I then had to deal with a 6 week recovery period, out of work, since the treatment involved opening the incision site and letting it heal from the inside out while irrigating it several times a day. I basically walked around with a hole in my stomach for a few months. My Dad at the time said I could have sued but it was up to me. I said no since I was alive and while they may have contributed to my getting the infection they also saved my life. I didn't die from an inflamed appendix and the ecoli infection didn't kill me either. You win some and you lose some. Most hopsital staff are overworked and they are actually run by corporations that contract out everything so I dont' so much blame the Doctors as much as I do policies designed to bring in as much cash as possible and cutting corners that may not not lead to hospitals being as clean as possible and having staff that isn't burned out.

    Don't treat your Doctors and Nurses like crap the majority are working long hours and most of them are doing there best even if they mess up on occasion.

    April 15, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WorldGoneMad

      You do realize E coli lives in the gut right? Your infection came from your body. Just because you got infected does not mean everyone does. In fact, most do not.

      April 16, 2011 at 12:02 | Report abuse |
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      November 16, 2012 at 02:56 | Report abuse |
  28. B.

    OK, CNN–now can we hear something (anything?) supportive about healthcare workers? We're an easy target, I know, but the negativity is overwhelming. Little wonder we have so few people entering (much less remaining in) the profession!

    April 15, 2011 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. WorldGoneMad

    Another article making hospitals look more dangerous than they are. Staph exists on every INCH of your body and can cause an infection at any time. Most of the people that die from these infections have a comorbidity that makes treatment difficult.
    The empowered patient has some good tips but people should be careful not to be disruptive of care. Getting in the face of a nurse who is giving antibiotics or turning a compromised patient takes time AWAY from the nurse being able to care for the patient.
    Hygiene is also important on the part of visitors. Wash your hands and try not to touch things such as linens, the patient, or anything that could possibly have the superbugs on it.

    The comments regarding the RICH RICH doc making his rounds and leaving is pure ignorance. Doctors work themselves to death. They are on call the entire shift for MANY patients and do not get paid what they used to from medicare and insurance companies. They deserve to be paid well, they went to school for a decade and save and improve lives.
    People think because they went on the internet and read these articles that they know better than health care professionals. Well walk a mile in our shoes, go to school and join us and then you can speak from experience, until then you dont know what you are talking about.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Robert Edelstein

    There is a new website focused on healthcare infection written for the patient.


    June 1, 2012 at 07:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Super Nurse

    The entire hospital environment should operate as a TEAM - SURPRISE! We should all be engulfed with patient-centered care! The patient's health/needs should overcome any/all boundaries of "WHOSE JOB IS WHAT" - People, I urge each and every one of you to do your part! This includes the patients, their families/support, and ALL staff from the bottom to the top!

    June 7, 2012 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.