Thursday, November 29, 2007

Too few Scrubbing Bubbles

On A18 of today's WSJ, Betsy McCaughey opines on the discrepancy between the cleanliness standards for restaurants and for hospitals. Surprise! Restaurants are cleaner. Why? Answer: more frequent inspections. Any given eatery can be shut down for "unclean cutting boards and floors, workers who fail to clean their hands, and improper food handling that could lead to bacterial contamination."

L.A. isn't the only city doing this, although it is exemplary: "After L.A. instituted this [once-a-year randomized] inspection system in 1998, the number of people sickened by food-borne illnesses fell 13%, according to the Journal of Environmental Health." However, surprisingly, hospitals don't have these inspections and therefore cause the deaths of many more people:
These infections are caused largely by unclean hands, inadequately cleaned equipment and contaminated clothing that allow bacteria to spread from patient to patient. In a study released in April, Boston University researchers examining 49 operating rooms at four New England hospitals found that more than half the objects that should have been disinfected were overlooked by cleaners.
Something even more (medically) foolish:
Hospitals used to routinely test surfaces for bacteria, but in 1970 the CDC and the American Hospital Association advised them to stop, saying testing was unnecessary. The CDC still adheres to that position despite a 32-fold increase in MRSA infections. CDC officials say that lab capacity should be reserved for tests on patients.
Guess what? Hospitals are only inspected ONCE every THREE years; physicians, because of patient privacy concerns, are not inspected AT ALL unless a spate of diseases occurs. Case in point:

It was serendipitous that a Nassau County, N.Y., health official noticed cases of Hepatitis C and called for an investigation of Dr. Harvey Finkelstein, a Long Island doctor. Dr. Finkelstein allegedly was reusing syringes, contrary to universal precautions, and injected patients with contaminated medications.

According to news reports, one of Dr. Finkelstein's patients is confirmed to have been infected with Hepatitis C, an incurable virus. Over a thousand other patients have been notified by health officials that they could be at risk for Hepatitis C and HIV.

The New York State Department of Health called Dr. Finkelstein's reuse of syringes a "correctable error," and is allowing him to continue to practice under observation.

"Correctable?" Not for the 53-year-old patient infected with Hepatitis C or the many other patients dreading the results of their blood tests. Restaurants are closed for far less.

Washing hands isn't enough. Keep the place clean, for once!

1 comment:

MathewK said...

Is that for private hospitals or public or both? It'll be interesting to know.