Dr. Betsy McCaughey thinks so. And states her case quite well in her testimony before the Congress of the United States.
Who’s Betsy McCaughey? Dr. Betsy McCaughey is the founder, president, CEO, chief honcho of RID: Reduce Hospital Deaths. She founded her organization in 2004 in reasponse to the alarming growth in the deaths of Americans due to hospital acquired infections.
She is a health policy expert, having concentrated on health legislation during her four years as Lt. Governor of New York State during the Pataki years. And how all she wants to do is save lives by making hospitals accountable for preventing the spread of infections which kill their patients.
I was first introduced to Dr. McCaughey (which is pronounced Mick-Coy) about 1-1/2 years ago when I wrote about MRSA for the first time. I wrote about specifically because my mother-in-law had been admitted to the hospital, had undergone surgery, and contracted MRSA after her surgery. What so very much frustrated me at the time was the fact that I had provided specific instruction and information to my sister-in-law (my MinL’s caregiver and in-hospital advocate) about making sure everyone washed their hands before they touched my mother-in-law.
I wasn’t there 24/7 — so I have no idea how the infection passed on…. but I can tell you that we lost my mother-in-law six months later. She was sick, she had cancer, and that’s how her death is recorded. But who’s to say the MRSA didn’t contribute?
And that’s part of the problem. For many years, patients at risk for easily contracting these infections have been dying in hospitals. They are at risk because they have compromised immune systems, meaning they can’t fight off the germs. They are at risk because they get catheters inserted to help them pass bodily fluids, but the catheters aren’t inserted hygenically, and the infection gets into a patient’s bloodstream. They are at risk because they have open wounds, including surgical wounds, and the infection is easily introduced through those wounds, directly into the blood stream.
But here’s the problem. Because those patients are in the hospital for other reasons — not infections — when they die from infections, their death gets blamed on their original reason for hospital admission. And that means the numbers are skewed, and that means nobody really knows how many deaths are attributable to MRSA or other hospital acquired infections.
Thus the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) coverup. They are conveniently looking at only the numbers that are reported. Those numbers reflect 1.7 million infections in American patients each year, including 99,000 patient deaths.
But those statistics don’t include the people who were infected before they died, who very likely died because of the infections and not whatever else they were hospitalized for. Dr. McCaughey estimates there are at least 880,000 deaths per year from infections — that’s 900% more deaths! Her data relies on statistics reported in the American Journal of Infection Control
Why is it important to state the problem correctly? Because without stats that are big enough, too little movement toward keeping patients safer will be made. As long as “only” 99,000 people die — why change things? At least that seems to be how the CDC is looking at the problem.
The answer — what will reveal the truth — are laws aimed at transparency. That means that hospitals will be required to report all infections, including the deaths of those who are infected, no matter what the hospital wants to say that person died from. Right now 22 states have laws, or are considering laws, to force hospitals to reveal the more realistic numbers.
One other step is important as well. Hospitals need to be testing patients as they enter the hospital — before they can infect others. MRSA screening tests are easy, are inexpensive, and their results are available within just a few hours. In a study released just a few months ago, MRSA screening was shown to reduce infection rates by 50 percent.
One positive forward motion is the fact that beginning in October 2008, American hospitals will no longer be allowed to bill Medicare for any services provided to a patient who becomes infected while in the hospital. the almighty dollar will be the catalyst for recognition of the problem.
But until the CDC begins to get real, other changes will be adopted way too slowly. And more patients will die.