The problems with health care in the U.S. are many and there’s plenty of blame to go around. That doesn’t mean that we bear no responsibility for our own health and well-being.
There are a great many things individuals can and should do to remain healthy and to ward off preventable illness. The same is true of hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes.
Cases of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are on the rise worldwide. MRSA, often referred to as a “super bug,” is a fast-spreading infection that is highly resistant to antibiotics and is sometimes fatal. The most deadly strain is specific to health care facilities.
Most of us are taught the importance of hand washing at a tender age. It’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to rid ourselves of harmful bacteria.
When we are in the hospital, we take it for granted that surgical teams will scrub up prior to surgery. But during the course of a hospital stay, we can very easily lose track of the number of health care workers in and out of our room. It is almost impossible for a patient to monitor. We must assume that the people entrusted with our care are washing their hands between patients and after touching materials that may spread infection. Sometimes we’re assuming too much. Yet it is this simple act of hand washing — something we take for granted — that is the single most important thing we can do to cut down on the spread of MRSA in the hospital.
The health care costs associated with MRSA — increased number of days in the hospital, medications, and follow-up care — are staggering, adding tens of thousands of dollars to the total cost of a hospital stay.
There is another type of MRSA, community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) that is not associated with health care facilities. This strain can hit otherwise healthy people, but usually causes milder symptoms. Repeated doctor visits and medication costs quickly add up.
While we can’t say that hand washing alone will protect you from MRSA, it would be foolish to discount its importance.
Hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities must take the steps necessary to educate ALL staff and to ensure that proper hand washing is mandatory and monitored. It is not only a tremendous financial drain on our overburdened facilities, it is a matter of life and death. Preventable death.