High risk of getting infection reported after outpatient surgery

Illinois patients put their lives and their trust in medical professionals every single day. Many understand that doctors and nurses must go through extensive schooling and training before they can practice in the medical field, and as a result, patients trust that their care providers know what they are doing and are taking every measure possible to improve the health of others.

However, a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that health care professionals continue to make simple medical mistakes that can truly jeopardize the health or the lives of their patients.

Contracting an infection after surgery or treatment is a common result of medical negligence in our state’s and nation’s hospitals. The CDC reported that in 2004, contracting an infection in a hospital was the 6th leading cause of death for Americans. This week, the CDC delivered some good news that hospitals have significantly reduced the number of patients who have contracted serious infections since then, but now the problem is becoming more prevalent in our nation’s outpatient clinics.

Outpatient clinics are often more convenient and affordable for patients who need minor surgeries or cancer treatment. However, these clinics are not as tightly regulated as hospitals are, and as a result, thousands of patients have been exposed to bacteria and viruses from unsafe and unsanitary practices at the clinics.

The CDC warned this week that cancer patients, who already struggle with weaker immune systems from treatment, are at a higher risk of suffering serious harm or death if they contract an infection. For this reason, the CDC announced on Tuesday that it is launching a new campaign to urge outpatient clinics to adopt formal infection-control procedures in order to prevent oncology patients in particular from being exposed to disease and infection.

According to the CDC, the most important precaution medical professionals can take in order to prevent patients from contracting infections is to use sanitary equipment and to wash their hands. Simple, right? However, more than 125,000 patients in the past decade have potentially been exposed to disease as a result unsafe injection practices. This number doesn’t even include other violations of care.

The CDC’s new campaign is strongly encouraging hospitals and outpatient clinics across the nation to adopt the following procedures to protect the safety of patients:

  • Use needles, syringes and saline bags only once for a single patient
  • Administer medications from single-dose vials to only one patient
  • Wash and sanitize hands before touching a patient
  • Draw up medications from a clean surface

Medical professionals in Chicago and throughout the state of Illinois may not intend to harm their patients, but neglecting to practice these preventative measures certainly increases a patient’s risk of contracting a disease that could be deadly.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “At the Clinic, Care…and Infection,” Laura Landro, Oct. 25, 2011

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