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Hospital patients at high risk of acquiring infection

A recent study has many patients questioning exactly how safe they are in a hospital.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around one in every 20 hospitalized patients will suffer from some form of infection during their stay. Of those patients, nearly 100,000 will die each year from infections. The number of infection-related deaths is finally starting to plateau after decades of being on the rise.

Instances of infection or death are grounds for, and can very well lead to, a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Most hospital patients are already more susceptible to infections because their injuries or illnesses levy a blow to their immune systems. Many times, patients have an incision, wound or other avenue in which bacteria can bypass the skin and enter the body.

Even though it is not always noticeable, bacterial contamination is extremely prevalent in hospitals. Dangerous bacteria can be found everywhere. Studies have even shown that potentially harmful bacteria can be found on uniforms and gloves worn by doctors and other healthcare workers. Some of these bacteria include Staphylococcus aureus, which is also known as MRSA.

There are some relatively simple fixes to this complex problem, one being basic hygiene. One hospital in North Carolina found promising results by implementing the use of hand sanitizers in its facility. The measures reduced hospital stays by more than two days on average.

Patients also need to be aware of their surroundings and not hesitate to bring issues to a healthcare professional's attention. If a hospital room seems dirty, a patient should ask for it to be cleaned. A patient can also request that a doctor or nurse wash their hands before working on them.

In addition, if bandages or catheters become painful or uncomfortable, a patient can ask a healthcare professional to help change them.

Source: USA Today, "One in 20 patients will contract a serious hospital infection," Rita Rubin, Sept. 20, 2011

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