Have you ever seen a picture or video of a medical facility in some third-world country and thought, “How dirty that looks; I’m so glad I live in America where the hospitals are clean!”? While sanitation does remain one of the biggest concerns in healthcare facilities worldwide, we tend to believe our own hospitals are the exception to the rule. But are they, really?
According to the CDC, over 721,000 patients were reported to have gotten serious infections while being treated in health facilities in 2011. Many of these infections could have been prevented by cleaner conditions within the facility itself. A CBS article points out that between 1995 and 2002, 75 percent of hospitals in the U.S. were cited for serious sanitation violations.
Sorry to bust the illusion, but statistically speaking, our hospitals obviously aren’t as clean as we thought.
Should you be worried? Cautious might be a better term to use. Not all the news here is bad or worrisome. Let’s create a little context.
The Situation Is Improving
Hospitals across the country do seem to be making headway in improving sanitation overall. According to progress reports by the CDC, the number of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) dropped across most categories between 2011 and 2014, so increased awareness of the issue seems to be yielding results.
Your Healthcare Worker’s Cleanliness Is More Important
A dirty, unswept hospital floor certainly isn’t safe—but since you’re not lying on the floor, and since no one is likely to put their booties on you, the germs on the floor present relatively little threat. Since most HAIs are transmitted by physical contact, you should be most concerned about the personal hygiene of your doctor, nurse or intern—followed closely by the surfaces you and they touch. Is their lab coat clean? Are they wearing surgical gloves when touching you? How often do they wash their hands? What about the examination chair? Is it regularly cleaned and disinfected?
As with all other aspects of healthcare, patients who are willing to take responsibility for their own safety are the ones who stay the most safe. Don’t assume your hospital is clean; pay attention. Ask questions. Find out about the facilities sanitation policies. Don’t accept treatment from any professional who doesn’t wash their hands before touching you. Be vigilant, and you can remain safe even if the hospital isn’t doing all it can to keep you safe.
If you’ve contracted a serious hospital-borne illness due to the negligence of a healthcare professional, call our Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys for a free evaluation. We may be able to help.