Hunterdon Medical Center, a smaller 178 bed community hospital in central New Jersey, is beating the MRSA bacteria that cause some of the most deadly and costly infections in hospitalized patients, as recently reported in the Wall Street Journal. The hospital uses an Infection Prevention Program that has reduced the frequency of Clostridium Difficile (C. Diff.) infections by 79% and Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) by 66%. These infections are largely responsible for much of the $33 billion cost associated with preventable infections in hospitalized patients. Currently, 1 in 20 patients admitted to hospitals gets a potentially deadly infection.
Kathy Roye-Horn, the Infection Prevention Director, and her staff randomly swab over 300 surfaces a month to check for bacterial contamination. C. Diff. spores can last for weeks on a doorknob or other surface and are not killed by ordinary sanitation methods. Hunterdon Medical Center uses germ killing ultraviolet light to bath patient rooms, chlorhexidine for hand sanitization, and strong bleach and hydrogen peroxide when cleaning rooms. High contamination areas are not found in the Operating Room, but rather on “high touch” surfaces, such as TV remotes, door knobs and computer keyboards.
It costs money to reduce the cost of infections. Hunterdon Medical Center has spent over $180,000 in rapid testing equipment and a computerized surveillance system to monitor for C. Diff. and MRSA. Handheld devices to test surfaces for bacterial contamination cost $3,000 a piece and $1,500 a month to operate. Medical personnel are trained with a video program about a young patient who died from a MRSA infection after multiple failures by hospital staff to follow preventive steps.
Hospitals don’t have to be a minefield full of potentially fatal bacteria that can cause devastating infections. It is possible for hospitals to implement room cleaning and infection prevention procedures that help to prevent them from infecting you. Before you or a loved one is admitted to a hospital, ask about its infection control procedures. Be aware of high touch surfaces. Make sure physicians and nurses follow appropriate hand washing and infection control procedures. These simple steps can help prevent one of these dreaded infections.