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When people fall sick, they go to the hospital to get better because hospitals are meant to make sick people get well. But your hospital can just as well make you become unwell. These days, hospital admission isn’t only costly and inconvenient, but potentially hazardous. Hospitals are gaining notoriety for spreading lethal infections and making sick people to become even sicker than they already are.
Medical records show that the risk of acquiring a deadly hospital-acquired infection is about 1 in 25 once you step inside a hospital premises. No cause for celebration. Caution should be the word. Every patient or visitor must insist on basic, simple, hygienic measures such as hand washing and use of protective equipment.
Are you seeking elective surgery? Pray not to be booked for a Friday afternoon. Opting for surgery at night, the weekend, or holiday period can be equally ill advised. Records show that patients with critical issues are more likely to develop avoidable complications and even die in the night, on a Saturday, a Sunday or public holiday compared to those treated in the day time on weekdays. At those times, staffing tends to be lighter and getting lab results takes almost forever. Reason: healthcare providers on-call are more easily distracted.
If you are admitted into hospital today, it would be in your interest to be “hospital-smart”. With infection lurking everywhere in a hospital, every patient and potential patient needs to be fully aware of the risks. Do you have an allergy? Are you immune-compromised? You may have been routinely screened; but have you double-checked with your doctor to ensure your personal risks have been adequately assessed and documented?
Don’t go it alone. It’s helpful to have a relative or friend with you to act as extra eyes and ears for you, keep track of your treatment and prevent errors that would otherwise go unnoticed.
A minute in the Emergency Room, 30 minutes in the Operating Room, one hour in the open ward or a day in the Intensive Care Unit, ICU, could be all that is required to make you come down with one or more of the potentially lethal in-hospital contagions that kill thousands of patients every year. Among the most common are bloodstream infection, ventilator-associated pneumonia, urinary tract infection, and surgical site infection to mention a few.
People are literally becoming sick of hospital environments that are presenting as increasing safety risk made worse by the fast ending age of antibiotic efficacy. Antibiotic overuse and inappropriate use are creating the so-called “super bug crisis”. In fact, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are taking over, and unfortunately, hospital settings are among the most dangerous of places when it comes to contracting an antibiotic-resistant infection.
Who can forget the menace of one of the most dreaded hospital infections known as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, better known as MRSA? Who has not heard that the 18 most-dangerous pathogens identified as “urgent, serious and concerning threats” to humankind can be transmitted from the hospital setting? These pathogens are extremely resistant to immune response and some forms are now exhibiting resistance to absolutely every known antibiotic in existence.
When visiting the hospital ward, or as an outpatient or inpatient, it’s a good idea to keep a bottle of sanitary gel and dispenser handy If you’re not sure that the nurse— or the next person—has sterile hands, offer them your gel. While demanding clean hands from health care personnel may appear overbearing, it could be a life saver when it matters most.
Countless cases of acquired infections that could easily have been prevented regularly occur after checking into a hospital.
Ideally, it is expected that hospital rooms are cleaned and washed down between patients, but don’t take chances. Beware of frequently touched areas such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, water faucets and bed rails. All these have high probability of contamination with dangerous bacteria.
To stay safe from the typical hospital-bred pathogen, use a disposable tissue when handling hospital paraphernalia. Hospital smart individuals know it pays to check their hospital’s safety history as well as cross infection rates.
If you are going in for surgery, choose your hospital carefully and get the facts right. You need to know how experienced your health practitioners are. Are they board certified? What is the hospital’s cross infection protection record? It doesn’t hurt to ask questions and demand answers.