Hospital Infections

It is a battle more and more hospitals are losing. The spread of deadly germs. According to the Centers for Disease Control, hospital acquired infections are linked to as many as 90 thousand deaths a year. Dr. Richard Wenzel  of Virginia Commonwealth University said, "I think the cutbacks that have occurred at hospitals particularly that involve nurses and trained nurse specialists have added to the increase in hospital-acquired infections." Government data show about six percent or more than two million people admitted to hospitals each year, will pick up some kind of infection. Germs that would not be harmful to a healthy person at home become potentially deadly in a hospital where patients are often too weak to fight the infection. Many researchers say up to a third of deaths from hospital infections could be prevented. Studies suggest that doctors and nurses, simply by washing their hands more often, could dramatically reduce the spread of germs. But there's much more that could be done. Mt Sinai hospital in Toronto is on the forefront in the fight against infections. The model program begins as soon as the patient arrives. Thorough screening targets people more likely to be carrying these infectious bacteria. Anyone considered at higher risk is tested immediately. Systematic sweeps of the hospital check every patient in every ward, several times a year ensuring no one has been contaminated. Sophisticated lab techniques allow scientists to see the genetic fingerprint of a single isolated bacterium, helping to better understand how it got there and how  to treat the patient. Finally, if the bacteria are detected there's rapid response. Every department is mobilized, housekeeping, the kitchen staff, nurse's aids, each group following a detailed plan to halt any spread. The program is working. The level of antibiotic-resistant germs, often the most deadly form of bacteria, is down about 40 percent over the last three years. And the program is also cost-effective. Because doctors no longer have to treat as many infections and isolate as many patients. Doctors there calculate they're actually saving more than $500,000 a year.