Buyer Beware: Hospital infections

(National) Feb. 25, 2005 - Ten years ago Ellen Haith went into the hospital for a routine operation on her knee, "I'm not an athlete, but I'm a very active person. I don't want to go through the rest of my life with a trick knee. So, I went for it, and, boy, did I pay for that."

Two weeks after the operation Ellen developed a serious infection. It would be a full three years before she finally recovered.

Consumer Reports says, despite her ordeal, Ellen is one of the lucky ones.

Ronni Sandroff, editor of the Consumer Reports On Health newsletter, says an estimated 90,000 people a year die from an infection they've contracted during a hospital stay.

There's a lot that makes patients vulnerable, "Many people who are admitted to the hospital already have infections. There are a lot of people in the hospital with weakened immune systems, and many of the things that get done in the hospital, from inserting an IV to surgery itself, can open the way for infections."

Consumer Reports says to increase your protection from infection:

  • Insist on clean hands. Surveys show less than half of doctors and nurses wash their hands between patients.
  • Be aware how long a urinary catheter is in place. If it's more than 48 hours, ask your doctor if you still need it.
  • Get up and around as soon as possible to prevent bedsores.

Following these steps can cut down on your risk of becoming a victim of hospital infection. Trying to get information on a hospital's infection rate can be difficult if not impossible, because the majority of hospitals are not required to make this information public.

Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, would like to see this change. Its web site, , has extensive information on hospital acquired infections and how you can contact your lawmakers about better reporting.

by Troubleshooter Judi Gatson

posted 6:00pm by Chris Rees

Copyright © 2005 Consumers Union of US, Inc. All Rights Reserved.