study c diff infections responsible for a staggering number of patient deaths

A hospital is supposed to be a place where patients and their family members can feel comfortable and confident that they are in good hands. However, what happens when hospital administration, eager to save money, decides to implement cost-saving measures that expose patients to potentially deadly infections?

While you may be tempted to think this is far-fetched, guess again. A comprehensive study recently determined that nearly half a million people a year are stricken with Clostridium difficile (C. diff) and that over 30,000 died from these infections.

For those unfamiliar with C. diff, it is a spore-forming bacteria that can essentially be found everywhere. It often preys on people taking certain medications or antibiotics for stomach ailments. What happens is that these medications are designed to attack infections but in doing so diminish levels of healthy bacteria. This in turn clears the way for C. diff to infect the patient’s system, producing toxins that can result in severe and even deadly health consequences.

Like many other germs, C. diff spores typically spread through fecal contamination, meaning they can be transferred from bathroom fixtures and other surfaces to a person’s hands. In addition, they can live for months on these surfaces and are resistant to many common disinfectants.

Hospitals need to take a two-pronged approach to fight the spread of the bacteria. First, they need to monitor/limit the use of those antibiotics that create the greatest risk of C. diff infection in patients. Second, they need to be certain to keep hands, rooms and equipment properly sanitized.

As shown by the staggering figures above, this isn’t happening.

According to the report, many hospitals cut costs on infection control and housekeeping during the recession, thereby facilitating the spread of C. diff.

“Looking at the data for C. diff and looking at what’s being presented at infection control meetings, we’re not doing a very good job,” said William Jarvis, a former infection specialist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We know what to do [to lower rates]. It’s not rocket science. And we know the barrier is cost.”

It’s truly shocking to think that hospitals would fail to take these relatively simple steps to prevent hospital-acquired infections in order to save a few bucks. Shouldn’t patient safety always come first?

Source: USA Today, “Far more could be done to stop the deadly bacteria C. diff,” Peter Eisler, Aug. 16, 2012

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