By Dr. Mercola
Hospital-acquired infections are a significant problem. According to 2011 statistics, 1 in 4 patients in the U.S. end up contracting some form of infection while in the hospital, and 205 Americans die from hospital-acquired infections each and every day.
In just one year (2011), an estimated 722,000 Americans contracted an infection during a stay in an acute care hospital, and about 75,000 of them died as a result of it.
The most common hospital-acquired infections include central line-associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, surgical site infections, and clostridium difficile infections.
Contaminated Medical Scopes Implicated in Spread of Superbug Infections
Last year, Dr. Jeffrey Tokar, director of gastrointestinal endoscopy at Fox Chase Cancer Center, and a paid consultant for a medical scope manufacturer, wrote an article1 discussing strategies to improve patient safety in light of superbug outbreaks traced back to contaminated medical scopes.
Now, Kaiser Health News points out that Tokar's own cancer center was ground zero for at least three cases in which patients were infected with drug-resistant bacteria.
According to the article:2
"In accordance with federal rules, the hospital reported the possibility to the manufacturer ... But the public was none the wiser.
The information only came to light ... when a U.S. Senate committee unveiled the results of a yearlong investigation into scope-related infections that sickened nearly 200 patients across the country from 2012 to 2015, including those potential cases at Fox Chase in Philadelphia.
The incident in Philadelphia illustrates a larger problem, experts say: a lack of public disclosure when medical devices are suspected of posing a risk to patients ...
[S]aid Lawrence Muscarella, Ph.D., a hospital-safety consultant ... 'Hospitals don't realize the more transparent they are, the more infection risks would decrease. It looks like important information was missing from this paper.' ..."
Unfortunately, there's no easy way for patients to determine where these kinds of infections are occurring, and whether your local hospital might be a hotspot.
According to the 2011 Health Grades Hospital Quality in America Study,3 Hospitals that accept Medicare tend to be far riskier than others in this regard, but the FDA does not release the names of hospitals where infections are reported.
Asking the Right Questions Could Save Your Life
As for avoiding hospital-acquired infections, if you have to undergo a colonoscopy or other testing using a flexible medical scope, remember to call and ask how they clean their scopes, and what kind of cleaning solution they use. If the answer is glutaraldehyde (brand name Cidex), find another hospital or clinic — one that uses peracetic acid. This preliminary legwork will significantly decrease your risk of contracting an infection from a contaminated scope.
In the video above, Dr. Andrew Saul, co-author of the book, "Hospitals and Health: Your Orthomolecular Guide to a Shorter Hospital Stay," discusses the dangers of hospital stays, the type of patient that tends to get killed the most, and how you can protect your health (indeed your very life) in the event you have to spend time in one.
For example, reminding nurses and doctors to wash their hands and change gloves before touching you can go a long way toward avoiding contamination with potentially lethal microbes.
Ideally, you should always have a personal advocate with you when you're in a hospital; someone who can look after your best interests in the event you're unable to speak up for yourself. It's also important to understand that you, the patient, are the most powerful entity within the entire hospital system.
However, the system works on the assumption that the patient will not claim that power. Knowing your rights and responsibilities can help ensure your hospital stay is a safe and healing one.