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June 02, 2005

Summary of Findings from Survey on Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs)

The Health and Social Campaigners’ Network International recently conducted an international survey of "campaigners" on hospital-acquired [or nosocomial] infections (HAIs) for the Irish Patients Association (IPA). On Monday, June 6th 2005, the IPA will release the results of the survey to the Irish media at a press conference in Dublin. The IPA will also use the results to promote its efforts to combat the rapid rise of HAIs in Ireland.

Zap*Germs participated in the survey, and I've received an advance copy of the journal -- issue 18 of HSCNews International (subscription req'd) -- that publishes the entire survey findings, along with comments by participants and interviews with three HAI advocates.

Taken from the survey findings published in the HSCNews International issue, below is a summary of major points:
  • Over 80% of the 102 responding campaigners thought that politicians and policymakers have been slack in tackling HAIs. Rather, patients, the public, and the media have been pushing forward the effort to reduce HAI levels. (Respondents believe that patients and the media have been most active, while politicians/policymakers and international health organizations have been least active.)

  • Three-quarters of respondents did not believe that measures taken in their home country to combat the rising levels of HAIs were comprehensive enough.

  • 40% of respondents in the US and Europe were not at all satisfied with precautions being taken against HAIs.

  • About one-third of European and US respondents said they knew of patients who had postponed surgery for fear of contracting an HAI. The fear is most marked among individuals who know others who have been infected while in hospital.

  • The public remains ignorant of the actual levels of infection in their own country’s hospitals.

  • I provided the following comment along with my questionnaire, which has made its way into the article:
    In the USA, there has been increased coverage of MRSA infections in the last few months, as well as of hospitals' measures to monitor and combat nosocomial infections. However, there has not yet been a groundswell of public opinion against HAIs, as there has been in the UK, perhaps because the healthcare system is not government-run, and therefore presents no single target for reform.

    Also, there has not yet been a single event to serve as a catalyst for focusing US public attention on the issue. If 1) a celebrity were to die (or nearly die) from a HAI in a US hospital, or 2) a major health crisis such as the one that focused attention on Legionnaire's disease in the 1980s were to occur, the news media would be mobilized, and attention would be given to this issue.

    Lisa McGiffert of Consumer Union's is one of the three respondents interviewed in the journal; her organization is having some success at pushing for US state governments to pass legislation requiring state-located hospitals to report on HAIs. She states that only 315 US hospitals (of about 5,000 with ERs) report HAIs to the CDC.


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