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Study: Hospital errors and infections are very common

How risky should it be to go to the hospital? Does going to the hospital seem like a bigger risk than flying? Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO), a branch of the United Nations, released a report that indicated that going to the hospital may be far riskier than previously believed. In fact, the WHO report indicates that the risk of being hurt or killed because of a medical error in a hospital is far greater than the risk of being killed or injured in a plane crash.

About one out of every ten million air passengers dies in a plane crash. In comparison, about one hospital patient out of every 10 suffers an injury because of a medical error or a hospital-acquired infection, and about one hospital patient out of every 300 patients dies because of a medical mistake.

Patients go to the hospital to get well and they have the right to receive quality health care from health care workers. However, infections are a major problem. When the WHO's statistics are projected upon the population as a whole, the numbers are staggering. Each year, about 1.7 million Americans suffer from a hospital-acquired infection, and 100,000 patients die from hospital-acquired infections.

The WHO estimates that 7 percent of patients in developed countries and 10 percent of patients in developing nations will develop hospital-acquired infections. However, most of these infections are entirely preventable with simple sanitation practices. According to WHO estimates, more than half of these infections could be prevented if hospital staff would simply wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before treating their patients.

Source: Reuters, "Going into hospital far riskier than flying: WHO," Stephanie Nebehay, July 21, 2011

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