Hospital dangers

February 1, 2008

Turns out installing alcohol-based handwashing gel dispensers in hospitals and encouraging staff to use them isn’t enough to prevent infections. Rings and long fingernails keep hands and dirty and other problems, such as non-sanitized treatment areas and improper handling of catheters are a problem, too. The issue was studied at a hospital in Nebraska, where gel use doubled but infection rates didn’t budge. It’s not surprising to learn that one tactic isn’t sufficient to control infections. Still, whenever I read about the poor record of hospital safety and quality it makes me mad. From the Associated Press:

More gel dispensers were put in the units, and usage rose from 37 percent to 68 percent in one unit and from 38 percent to 69 percent in the other. Compliance for hand washing of any kind in most hospitals is estimated to be about 40 percent, according to experts, although some hospitals do better.

Can you imagine a 40 percent compliance rate in any other business besides health care?

  • Pilots going through their pre-flight checklists completely 40 percent of the time?
  • Accountants calculating profit and loss correctly 40 percent of the time?
  • Hamburger flippers putting all the ingredients on a Whopper 40 percent of the time?

No way. We shouldn’t tolerate it in health care either.

4 thoughts on “Hospital dangers”

  1. My understanding of the gels are that they kill some (but not all) bacteria, and are mostly ineffective against viruses, and do nothing to remove environmental contaminants, such as arsenic, rat poison, and the like. They’d certainly be better off washing their hands! I wonder what the compliance percentage is at restaurants?

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