- A hospital visit may be more dangerous to your health
than you realize. Just ask Ingrid Kwiatek, who came home from the hospital
with a serious staph infection.
- Kwiatek's husband said what started as a routine hospital
visit turned into an 110-day nightmare of pain and suffering in three different
- "I would never wish this experience on anyone,"
he said. "Especially distressing was the closed-ranks attitude at
all three hospitals in discussing the infection."
- Following the incident, Kwiatek's family doctor had this
to say: "Hospitals are dirty places."
- The High Cost of Infections A new report released by
the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council pointed to the high
cost of these infections in both dollars and lives.
- The report - the first of its kind in the nation - identified
the actual number of infections reported by Pennsylvania's 168 hospitals,
as well as other related quality-of-care measures, in 2005.
- The hospitals studied reported 19,154 cases in which
patients contracted hospital-acquired infections. The hospitalizations
resulting from these infections amounted to 394,129 hospital days and $3.5
billion in hospital charges.
- The average hospital charge for patients with a hospital-acquired
infection was $185,260, while the average charge for patients without hospital-acquired
infections was $31,389. The average length of stay for patients with hospital-acquired
infections was also longer at 20.6 days, compared with 4.5 days, for those
who didn't contract hospital infections.
- Most telling, though, were the figures on patient deaths.
The report said that while 2.3 percent of patients who didn't acquire infections
died, the mortality rate for those who did contract infections was 12.9
percent - more than 512 times as high.
- "This report is a first. We are no longer looking
at statistics based on estimates or extrapolated data," said Lisa
McGiffert, director of Consumers Union's Stop Hospital Infections campaign.
"These are real people who suffered from real infections. The personal
and financial costs of hospital infections are staggering."
- The Pennsylvania study did offer a few solutions. It
said that doctors and other hospital workers should wash their hands more
regularly, use gloves and properly sterilized equipment, and routinely
follow established "best practices." The report also suggested
that patients should follow the same guidelines and insist that not only
health care providers but visitors wash their hands too.
- Shedding Light on Hospital Safety What adds to the problem,
though, according to health officials, is that most states are not required
to report infections or provide such information to the public.
- "It's time to shine the light on this important
and costly issue," said Marc Volavka, executive director of Pennsylvania
Health Care Cost Containment Council. "This will save thousands of
Americans from the devastating effects of hospital-acquired infections."
- Volavka said the report is a first step toward greater
- "It's time that hospitals, patients and those who
pay the bill know how many patients develop hospital-acquired infections,
the type of infections they develop and the quality and cost implications,"
Volavka said. "The more information that becomes available, the better
the focus will be on preventing these infections."
- "Until now, consumers have been completely in the
dark about their hospital's record on infecting patients," said Beth
McConnell, director of the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group
Education Fund. "This report sheds light on a very serious problem
and will help the public hold hospitals accountable for patient safety."