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Medical Ignorance and Neglect Cause Thousands of Hospital Infection Deaths

The Washington Post reported today on survey results that indicate thousands of lives could be saved each year if medical professionals paid closer attention to deadly hospital infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that each year approximately 80,000 patients develop catheter-related bloodstream infections (CRBSIs). Slightly less than 40% of those victims (about 30,000 total) ultimately die as a result of the infection. CRBSIs are caused by improper use of catheters- which are tubes inserted into the body to allow fluid drainage, access for surgical instruments, and insertion of fluids. The most common catheter errors occur when the nutrients are improperly prepared for the catheter or it is left inside that body for longer than necessary.

With 30,000 patients dying each year due to these infections, you would expect medical professionals to take every step possible to limit CRBSIs. However, studies have indicated that the infections could nearly be eliminated if medical simple followed simple protocols to ensure the proper use of catheters.

Five simple steps are necessary to stamp out the problem;

1. Hand washing with soap 2. Cleaning patient skin with effective antiseptic 3. Covering patient with sterile drapes 4. Wearing sterile mask, hat, and gloves 5. Using sterile dressing over catheter site
Research consistently indicates that if each of these basic hygiene safety measures is followed, the infections drop drastically. However, medical professionals continually fail to adopt these basic practices in every case, leading to CRBSI-related deaths.

Besides those five steps, research has also indicated that special protocols requiring physicians to weigh the possible benefit of an extra day with the catheter to the potential risks ultimately results in lower CRBSIs. Also, having a response team prepared to deal with any infections quickly has similar effects on limiting the harm from the infections.

Together each of these procedures, as test programs in Michigan hospitals have demonstrated, could save tens of thousands of lives a year. But the majority of hospitals still fail to implement these tested practices.

Instead medical professionals often refuse to pay for the minimal costs of implanting the programs, even though the process actually saves millions of dollars in the long-term. Implementation of these processes typically costs a few thousand dollars to start. However, that pales in comparison to the $30-40,000 price tag to treat each new case of CRBSI.

Besides the skewed financial concern, experts indicate the other main impediment to these life-saving techniques is simply a lack of commitment to the process of behalf of medical professionals. With busy schedules and familiarity with old-fashioned models, many physicians and nurses are simply reluctant to make changes, even if those changes save lives.

No matter what the excuse, no patient should be placed at increased risk of deadly hospital infections. The tools exist to stop CRBSIs, and each medical professional should use them to save lives. Our medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti have fought legal battles on behalf of many patient-victims of catheter errors. We support all steps to ensure that no more victims suffer at the hands of medical device errors.