Explained: Hospital-Acquired Infections & How to Avoid Them

Hospital acquired infections can affect as many as 20 percent of patients.

2 min read

During my practice as a critical care specialist over the past 20 years, I have often had family members of patients come up to me, and request that the afflicted stays on a few more nights at the hospital, surrounded by expert care.

Sounds reasonable enough, right?

Given that it’s more money for the hospital, and it makes the family “feel” better – they expect me to readily agree. They are shocked when I tell them to take their loved ones home right away.

Now why would I do that?

Hospitals are seen exclusively as places to heal, to get better. What doesn’t come up enough is that they’re also breeding grounds for infection, and hospital acquired infections are so common, there’s actually a medical term for them called “nosocomial infections.”

Here’s a scary statistic - studies show that in developing countries like ours, 20% of patients admitted may contract Hospital-Acquired Infections!

How does that happen?

When you go to a hospital, chances are your immunity is already low – why else will you go there in the first place? Your body could also be in shock

Hospitals are supposed to be bacteria free- that’s because strong antibiotics have already killed all the bacteria it can. But the bacteria is smart. The strongest of them have developed resistance to these antibiotics. And the ones that survive in a hospital setting are the multi drug resistant kind.

Where all in a hospital does this strong, drug-resistant bacteria survive?

Multi drug resistant bacteria is everywhere.
Multi drug resistant bacteria is everywhere.
(Photo: iStock)

Unfortunately, it is everywhere. The IV, catheter, the food you eat, doctors and nurses hands and air you breathe.

So while you’ve gone to a hospital to heal, you may end up getting this ‘Hospital- Acquired Infection’ making your stay longer, with increased complications and higher costs!

At about this point, you are probably thinking that I have talked you into a real Catch-22 situation.

How does one care for their ailing family member if even hospitals are danger zones?

Simple – you bring healthcare home.

Burgeoning in India is this new concept of medical assistance in homes, of the same standard that you have come to expect of hospitals, and at lower costs. And this helps cut down over crowding of hospitals.

And if you have to spend considerable time at the hospital, know your rights. The Right To Patient Education, or the Right To Safety and Quality Care According to Standards, are tools you can read to empower yourself.

Hospitals are required to keep their equipment clean and reduce the spread of drug resistant bacteria. When hospitals say they can’t, they are just being lazy, or not giving you the standard of care you deserve.

Cameraperson: Nitin Chopra

Editor: Kunal Mehra

(With over 20 years of clinical, investment and operational experience in the healthcare sector, Dr Amit Varma brings with him a domain expertise that links all facets of healthcare. He is a reputed physician with diverse healthcare management leadership roles and has headed numerous companies)

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