Nosocomial infections are communicable diseases acquired in hospitals, and thousands of Americans are dying from them each year.
If that’s not shocking enough, consider that they go unreported because the death certificates typically list the ailment that brought a patient to the hospital, rather than an ailment acquired after she got there.
From the Los Angeles Times:
An epidemic of hospital-acquired infections is going unreported, scientists have found.
University of Michigan researchers reported in a 2014 study that infections – both those acquired inside and outside hospitals – would replace heart disease and cancer as the leading causes of death in hospitals if the count was performed by looking at patients’ medical billing records, which show what they were being treated for, rather than death certificates.
“Even if one person dies from a hospital-acquired infection, it’s one too many,” said Dr. Chesley Richards, who oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for Health Statistics and who met recently with a group of families to discuss the misleading death certificates.
California does not track deaths from hospital-acquired infections. And unlike two dozen other states, California does not require hospitals to report when patients are sickened by the rare, lethal superbug that afflicted McMullen, raising questions about whether health officials are doing enough to stop its spread.
Experts say hospitals can prevent the deaths through better infection control procedures, including some as simple as making sure staff wash their hands, but have little incentive to do so if the deaths are not reported.
“We, the community of physicians, had been watching these patients die and trundling them off to the morgue for years,” said Dr. Barry Farr, former president of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, who is now retired. “Now we’re in the eighth verse of the same song.”
As an old cowboy friend used to say, “Stay away from hospitals. People die there.”
Hospitals have ever incentive to not report nosocomial infections, given that many are public institutions nominally responsiblre to votes who elect their governming boards, boards that would have troubled getting elected if they admitted they were killing patients.
Likewise for charitable hospitals, reliant on donations, and likewise for corporate hospitals.
Each institutional type has a vested interest in putting forth the best possible image, and if the law doesn’t require you to admit you’re killing people, then why mess with a good thing, right?
It makes centers. And dollars, too.