Preventing Dangerous Hospital-Acquired Infections

Patient safety organizations recently updated medical care center guidelines designed to prevent one potentially catastrophic medical error: hospital-acquired infections.

Hospital-acquired infections (HAI), are infections that occur directly as a result of medical care. They are given this label when patients enter a medical facility for treatment not related to the infection and occur:

  • Within 48 hours of admission
  • Within three days following discharge
  • Within 30 days following a surgical procedure

The federal government reports that tens of thousands of patients die every year from HAIs.

Common Hospital-Acquired Infections

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies the following as common types of serious HAIs:

  • Central line-associated bloodstream infection
  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infection
  • Surgical site infection
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia

HAIs can result when dangerous bacteria are spread to patients. These germs can be found on insufficiently disinfected medical devices. The four HAIs cited by the CDC often are associated with medical devices that weren’t properly cleaned.

Germs that cause HAIs also are spread among patients by healthcare providers. The updated guidelines largely focus on hygiene practices medical care staff should follow so they don’t spread potentially deadly bacteria to patients.

Thorough hand-washing, before and after seeing patients, can prevent HAIs.

Steps Care Centers Should Follow To Prevent Dangerous Patient Infections

The safety guidelines are designed not only for healthcare providers but for care facilities as well. They apply to hospitals and other treatment centers, such as nursing homes, dialysis centers and outpatient surgery clinics.

One new measure is that, in addition to regular handwashing, healthcare providers should maintain short fingernails. In high-risk areas, such as hospital intensive care units, they should not wear artificial fingernails.

To avoid dry and cracked hands from hand-washing, which can spread infections from providers to patients, facilities should use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Hospitals should have hand sanitizer dispensers wherever patients receive medical care. There should be one in the room and just outside the room for private hospital rooms. In multi-bed patient rooms, the new guidelines call for a minimum one dispenser for every two patient beds.

Certain hospital sinks should be designated for handwashing only. Substances that may contain harmful bacteria – food, IV solutions and medications among them – should not be dumped into these sinks, to avoid spreading the bacteria.

Hospitals should actively monitor the hygiene habits of medical care staff and provide regular feedback to build a culture of safety throughout the facility.

The steps are not complicated. But if healthcare providers or hospital administers don’t follow them, patients may needlessly suffer from potentially deadly healthcare-associated infections.

If you suspect you or a loved one suffered serious and long-lasting injuries due to an error during medical care, speak with a personal injury attorney about conducting a thorough investigation.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham. Posted in Blog April 11, 2023.


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