Hospital acquired infections are quite widespread in the UK, USA

Dear Editor,

On the evening of October 24, 2007, BBC radio had on its weekly programme ‘Health Check’ a discussion among three Professors of Medicine of Universities in the UK and the USA, respectively.

They discussed the very critical topic of ‘Hospital Acquired Infection’ (HAI), the incidence of which had been studied by one of the discussants over a fifteen-year period.

It was established that in those two developed countries with assumedly competent levels of hospital administration the incidence of (HAI) was not only increasing at alarming rates, but was resulting in an unacceptable number of deaths. The figure quoted for the UK was 5,000 per annum; while it was estimated that some 90 thousand patients succumbed annually from HAI in the USA, out of 2 million infected patients.

One epidemiologist reported that patients get infected with bacteria already in their skin; while other germs travel when health care workers do not wear gloves or wash their hands.

In other cases it would appear that standard hospital requirements to give surgery patients antibiotics before and after surgery, is too often not enforced.

There was pronounced concern about cleaning and nursing standards in hospitals, including those in developing countries which suffer from a lack of adequate resources.

In 2005 HAI was regarded as quite common in the United Kingdom, where it affected some 9% of the patient population. Of the many different bacteria which can be caught in hospitals the most notorious was said to be MRSA – Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, some of which are resistant to many different antibiotics. Relatively rare in the early 1990s infections caused by this species are said to have risen in the UK to more than 45% within 10 years.

MRSA is said to be particularly feared in hospitals as it is reported to cause an extremely wide range of serious diseases such as pneumonia, septicaemia, bone infections and toxic shock. It seems that MRSA can be carried in the nose and on the skin of staff and patients alike. It can persist for months on surfaces, and can be difficult to eradicate using only standard cleaning protocols.

In a literature update published by VICNISS on the internet a Dr Leon Worth, ID Physician, discusses the “Value of Whole-body Washing with Chlorhexidine for MRSA Colonization”; and “Automated Strategies for Survelliance of Nosocomical Bacteria”.

(www.vicniss.org.au/HCW/LiteratureREviews/23LitReview0807.aspx)

The above was down-loaded from a series of publications on the internet following the BBC Radio Broadcast mentioned above.

The discourse invites questions regarding the situation obtaining in Guyana Hospitals in relation to Hospital Acquired Infection; the mechanisms in place for monitoring this development presumably by the Ministry of Health.

One is aware that legislation exists which provides for inspection of Private Hospitals, but there is no certainty whether the evaluation exercise includes monitoring the incidence of HAI.

Importantly, however, is an answer as to how public medical treatment facilities are monitored and evaluated, and by whom.

The above is submitted partly in the interest of the public being reassured of the rate of their survivability in our hospital system overall.

Yours faithfully,

E. B. John

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