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Learning from years of mistakes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of hospital-acquired infections is down. Though there may be other explanations as to why the rate of hospital infections has fallen since 2002, it would appear that hospitals are trying to avoid some of the problems of years past. Hospitals should certainly be commended for reducing their rate of illness, but there were still an estimated 722,000 hospital infections in 2011 alone.

Hospital negligence is often a cause of hospital-acquired infections. In some cases, hospitals fail to properly sanitize rooms for new patients, they allow doctors and nurses to wear clothing that has a high risk of transferring germs, or rules regarding hand washing are not thoroughly enforced. When it is clear that a hospital is to blame for a patient's illness, it is often the hospital that becomes the subject of a medical malpractice lawsuit.

While the drop in the rate of hospital infections is commendable, there is also concern that the rate was compiled from hospital data alone, despite the fact that more than half of patients undergoing an operation have it done at an outpatient surgical center. In addition, much of the transitional and recovery care is done at nursing homes. Without including infection statistics at these types of facilities, the CDC's approximate rate of infection may not accurately reflect the current state of medicine.

It would be no surprise for individuals to get sick at hospitals in decades past -- what with the large number of germs and illnesses in a hospital -- but it is now hospital administrators' responsibility to prevent these kinds of illnesses. Failing to do so could be considered negligence.

Source: The New York Times, "Infections at Hospitals Are Falling, C.D.C. Says," Sabrina Tavernise, March 26, 2014

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