At a veterans’ hospital [in Pittsburgh], nurses swab the nasal passages of every arriving patient to test them for drug-resistant bacteria. Those found positive are housed in isolation rooms behind red painted lines that warn workers not to approach without wearing gowns and gloves.Swabs in Hand, Hospital Cuts Deadly Infections (New York Times, 27 July 2007)
Every room and corridor is equipped with dispensers of foamy hand sanitizer. Blood pressure cuffs are discarded after use, and each room is assigned its own stethoscope to prevent the transfer of microorganisms. Using these and other relatively inexpensive measures, the hospital has significantly reduced the number of patients who develop deadly drug-resistant infections, long an unaddressed problem in American hospitals.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projected this year that one of every 22 patients would get an infection while hospitalized — 1.7 million cases a year — and that 99,000 would die, often from what began as a routine procedure. The cost of treating the infections amounts to tens of billions of dollars, experts say.
“People don’t believe it’s in their institution, and, if it is, that it’s too big to do anything about, that you just have to accept it,” said Terri Gerigk Wolf, director of VA Pittsburgh Healthcare Systems. “But we have shown you can do something about it.”
I have more than a passing interest in this topic. Both of my parents have contracted HAI's (hospital/healthcare-acquired infections) while patients in hospitals or nursing homes, and an multiple-antibiotic-resistant strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae, acquired during a hospital stay, killed my father.
- Centers for Disease Control: The Impact of Hospital-Acquired Bloodstream Infection
"Nosocomial bloodstream infections are a leading cause of death in the United States. If we assume a nosocomial infection rate of 5%, of which 10% are bloodstream infections, and an attributable mortality rate of 15%, bloodstream infections would represent the eighth leading cause of death in the United States."