Two (Very Costly) Strategies on Fighting Hospital Infections

There has been much written and spoken recently about antibiotic resistant organisms, nosocomial infections, and the rise in the incidence of these. MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus), VRE (Vancomycin Resistant Enterrococcus) and other infections like Clostridium Difficile have been increasing in alarming numbers, leading to rising costs in caring for the patients infected by these “super bugs” and numerous patient deaths. Nosocomial infections account for approximately 20,000 deaths each year, and about 1 in 10 American hospital patients can expect to get a hospital-acquired infection each year.

In hospitals all over the country, patients routinely share rooms with one or more other patients, a practice that is proving deadly. They also share nurses, and all too often there are not enough of them to go around.

Evidence has shown that the number of people infected by these bugs can be greatly diminished in two ways: First, by every patient having their own room with their own bathrooms, and secondly, by having enough nurses available so that uninfected patients are not cared for by nurses who have been caring for infected patients. Additionally, having enough nurses available helps in infection control measures, as nurses are often the ones who implement these measures.

If this is known, why is more not being done? Although the cost of revamping currently existing hospitals to make all the rooms private would be astronomical, so is the cost of caring for the 10% of patients who require extended hospital stays because they contracted a nosocomial infection in the very place that was to help them get well. And we cannot discount the 20,000 deaths caused by these infections each year.

In at least 42 states, efforts are underway to counteract the problem. The American Institute of Architects has called for 100% private rooms as the minimum standard for some units in general hospitals in their document “Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities.”

This is definitely a step in the right direction, and it is likely that the remaining states that have not adopted these guidelines will do so, as people become more aware and concerned about this issue.


Nicholas Kohler, (2008). Death Traps. Maclean’s. p.40

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