In 2014, Dr. John F. Heaton, Medical Director for the New Orleans Children’s Hospital held a press conference and acknowledged the death of five children who died from an outbreak of a deadly fungal infection. The infection was transmitted from hospital linens. Doctors and other experts say that such infections through contact with linens are rare. A hospital is required to take reasonable measures to assure the health and safety of its patients. The C.D.C. started an initiative to help hospitals and health departments communicate with the public about events such as outbreaks and medical errors. In the New Orleans Children’s hospital incident, Dr. Heaton said that he thought it was appalling that the parents of the deceased children found out about the deaths from the newspaper.
If you are concerned about the hospital where you are staying, ask to speak to the hospital administration and ask about its track record for cleanliness. Do a search on the internet for lawsuits, infractions, or arbitration regarding hospital cleanliness. Also, ask who the hospital uses for cleaning services. Research the cleaning company to make sure they are in good standing.
Studies reveal that these are some of the dirtiest parts of hospitals:
Elevator buttons, bed curtains, cell phones, computer keyboards, privacy curtains, bed rails, over the bed carts, the IV pole, armrests on visitor chairs, water faucets and door handles.
The privacy curtains that are used in hospitals could possibly be contaminated with deadly drug-resistant bugs. They are usually made of plastic or cotton. You’ll find privacy curtains when you are changing for an MRI or in between hospital beds. They tend to be cleaned infrequently. Even washing linens like curtains may not entirely kill all bacteria. Commercial washing machines don’t always fully remove traces of C. diff from hospital bed linens. Also, hospital cleaning staff often don’t clean all the surfaces in a patient’s room, such as the call button and bedrails.
According to the CDC, Clostridioides difficile (also known as C. diff ) is a bacterium that causes diarrhea and colitis (inflammation of the colon). C. diff infections can be deadly. C. diff bacteria is commonly found in the environment, but most cases of C. diff occur while you’re taking antibiotics or not long after you’ve finished taking antibiotics. Extended stays in healthcare settings, especially hospitals and nursing homes, also increase risk. One in 11 people over 65 diagnosed with a healthcare-associated C. diff infection die within a month. C. diff spreads when people touch surfaces that are contaminated with feces from an infected person. Or when people don’t wash their hands with soap and water. It can also happen when one healthcare facility fails to notify another when it transfers a patient with C. diff. For more information about C. diff visit the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website.
To help combat infection, Charles P. Gerba, Ph.D., at the University of Arizona recommends patients use medical-grade hand sanitizer at regular intervals throughout the day. It may be hard to handwash often, especially post-surgery, or if someone is very ill. Many people bring their own sanitizer to hospitals as well as gloves. Be careful what you touch and wash your hands often. Remember that hospital staff can be busy and they don’t always have time to be completely sanitary.