Monday, June 30, 2008

First, Do No Harm

Contrary to popular belief, these words do not, in fact, appear in the Hippocratic Oath, but they make a good title for this post. I am pleased to pass on the news that in spite of the salmonella caused by our tomatoes and the E coli in the ground beef purchased from the local grocery stores, there is one place in Michigan where we will soon be in less danger from bugs and nasty organisms. Our hospitals. According to an article in today’s paper, “Metro Detroit hospitals are stepping up efforts to reduce costly and often traumatic medical errors, in preparation for new rules that will make them bear the cost of the mistakes they make when treating patients.” Traumatic medical errors and hospitals are two concepts that should not appear in the same sentence.

We’re not just talking about amputating the wrong leg, or “surgery on the wrong patient, surgery on the wrong body part and carrying out the wrong surgery,” as the article succinctly puts it. Read this paragraph:

One low-tech practice recommended by the hospital association to improve hand hygiene among staff -- a simple but crucial way to prevent the spread of infections -- is for hospitals to deploy workers, secret-shopper style, to watch over their colleagues on whether they've washed their hands before entering a patient room. "It is not a high-tech intervention, but it does have an enormous impact on the hospital setting," said Peters of the hospital association.
I have noticed in some public bathrooms a sign indicating that we should wash our hands for as long as it takes to sing a couple of verses of “Old MacDonald had a farm”. That’s the sign that appears next to the one that says “Employees should wash their hands before returning to work.” Obviously this sign should be amended in hospital bathrooms to add “Please add a couple of extra barnyard animals if you intend to perform open heart surgery.”

Too bad that it is concern about Medicare changes and not concern about patients that is bringing about these initiatives.

1 comment:

Maggie May said...

Its always a worry going into hospital in case you catch these awful bugs while in a weakened state. Anything that can combat the bugs should be done, even if it means singing "old Macdonald!"