Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hospital (nosocomial) infections - an 'invisible' disease

Salma Khalik, Health Correspondent for the Straits Times had a good write up today (pg 2 ST) on stamping out hospital infections. Her comments resonated with what I had posted earlier, and points the finger at bottom line issues affecting the hospitals. She suggested an interesting solution. Make the hospitals liable for hospital (nosocomial) infections. She's right, of course. They should be. Why should patients have to pay extra if hospitals are responsible for infections inflicted upon the patients. It's like asking patients to pay for the extra surgery required if surgeons botch up their routine surgery (oooops...that happens too doesn't it?). Problem is hospitals will just pass on the costs of litigation, and of insurance back to the patients. And then up go health care costs.

This really underlies the difficulty in implementing solutions which we all know are required. Hospitals don't want to track nosocomial infections
and don't really want to know about it no matter what they profess. And MOH also doesn't really want to track the problem, nor seriously deal with it. Ministry of Health needs to keep health care costs down, or else pay the political price.

It's all lip service at the moment, because the numbers are still manageable. Many patients are not even aware they have picked up nosocomial infections, or that their hospital costs are high because they needed that expensive special antibiotic, or that extra long stay to deal with an unnecessary superinfection by a resistant bug. It is really one of several 'invisible diseases'....ailments that doctors pretend not to see, and for which patients willy nilly accept as part of their hospital experience. And pay for it. What choice do they have?

So as long as patients happily pay the cost of their superinfections, its really "hush everyone...don't tell anyone the problem exists".

Ultimately it is a problem that Ministry and hospitals have to take responsibility for. No doubt health care costs will go up because of it, but someone has to pay for it...and someone other than the patient who was really an innocent victim of dirty facilities.

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