You go into the hospital for one thing and end up with another. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that is precisely what happens to around 3 % of people treated in U.S. hospitals.
Close to 90,000 people die each year due to infections they pick up in a hospital while being treated for something else.
Why is infection such a risk in a hospital?
When you enter the hospital, you are typically not at your best. Your defenses may already be weak, and your immune system struggling to cope. You are an easy target for so-called “superbugs,” of which there can be many in a hospital environment. They can live on anything from walls to light switches, from a medic’s stethoscope to their cell phone.
These germs can enter your body if you have an open wound or a wound is opened during surgery. Or they can pass by touch or through the air, such as when someone sneezes or coughs. The result could be a hospital-acquired nosocomial infection (HAI).
What should hospitals do to prevent HAIs?
Hospitals can take steps to reduce the danger to patients, including:
- Clean: The better the facility’s cleaning regime, the safer it is likely to be. Some establishments are noticeably cleaner than others.
- Proper equipment: The use of medical gowns, masks, and disposable gloves by staff can help prevent the spread of HAIs.
- An infection prevention program: Medical facilities need someone specialized in this to take control and ensure that hospitals are doing all they can to reduce infection risk.
- Training: All staff needs to be aware of the dangers of HAIs and what they must do to reduce the risk they occur.
There will always be some risk of HAIs due to the nature of hospitals. However, failing to take all the necessary steps to prevent them might be considered negligence. It may be grounds for a medical malpractice claim if you or a loved one has been infected due to a visit to the hospital.