In a series of articles dated July 21 and 22, 2002 from the Chicago Tribune comes a frightening report of needless deaths of thousands of infants due simply to actions of hospitals and their workers. According to an analysis done by the Tribune of records at the federal centres for Disease Control and Prevention, pediatric intensive care units experience up to three times the number of infections as other hospital areas, including operating rooms. The article reports that state and federal health-care records show that the rate of lethal pediatric infections acquired in hospitals is rising.
The article highlighted a tragic case from Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit, during a three month period in the spring of 1997, on the same floor, within the same nursery unit, along the same row of bassinets, hospital germs contributed to the deaths of three babies and slipped undetected into 15 more newborns.
Probably the most chilling part of the expose were the statistics gathered by the Tribune that linked the deaths of 2,610 infants in the year 2000 alone to preventable hospital-acquired infections. The Tribune further identified 75,000 preventable deaths where hospital-acquired infections played a major role. Their analysis was based on the most recent national data, and was the most comprehensive of its kind drawing on information from thousands of hospital and government inspection reports.
According to a Tribune inspection and investigation of files at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the majority of cases in pediatric intensive care units where needless deaths occurred, lives might have been saved by such simple acts such as washing hands or isolating patients the moment infections were detected. The Tribune’s analysis found an estimated 103,000 total deaths linked to hospital infections in 2000. The centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which bases its numbers on extrapolations from 315 hospitals, estimated there were 90,000 that year. The Tribune article estimated that 75,000 of the deadly hospital infections took place in conditions that were preventable.
In an article on the same subject in the July 21, 2002 issue of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution it was also noted that according to the federal centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, deaths linked to hospital germs now represent the fourth-leading cause of mortality among Americans, behind heart disease, cancer and strokes. To put this in perspective these infections kill more people each year than car accidents, fires and drowning combined.