Hospitals, “You Are on Your Own” / Julio Cesar Alvarez
Posted on March 11, 2014
About 50,000 patients get some kind of infections annually. Lack of
running water in bathrooms, clean linens, surgical gloves and even lack
of brooms are among the causes.
HAVANA, Cuba. -Approximately 50,000 patients get some kind of infections
in Cuban hospitals; 16,500 could die from that cause. Being admitted in
a hospital is considered “more dangerous than an airline flight,”
according to the World Health Organization.
More than 8 millions patients die because of a severe infections every
year around the world associated to medical attention, meaning one
person dies every four seconds. In the USA 1.7 million infections are
reported in hospitals, causing 100 thousand deaths. In Europe, 4.7
million are also reported in hospitals with a 37 thousand death toll,
according to World Health Organization.
Every year government officials in Cuba report low child mortality
rates, data that makes the Cuban Health System look great. However the
numbers of infections, or deaths caused by hospital infections are not
published, that could be a good indicator to measure health services
quality in the island.
A hospital that has a high rate of infections among patients admitted,
is not considered efficient. Even with no official data available, Dr.
Rafael Nodarse Hernandez– a Microbiologist Specialist Grade 2 who works
for the Dr. Luis Diaz Soto Military Hospital–confirmed in Havana that
50,000 people catch infections every year in Cuban hospitals, as he
stated to a Cuban Military Medicine magazine.
That statement was validated in a study issued by Masters in Science
Luis Eugenio Valdez Garcia and Tania Leyva Miranda, from the local
Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology Center in Santiago de Cuba.
In an article titled “Endurance of infections associated with health
services in Santiago de Cuba local hospitals,” published by the digital
site Infomed, Masters Valdez Garcia and Leyva Miranda stated: “Santiago
de Cuba province has an average of 2,500 to 3,000 people that get
infections in the very hospitals they are admitted to. As of 2011,
reports show 2,717 events documented, meaning 2.4 cases per 100 patients
released from hospitals”.
Taking as reference the 33% mortality caused by hospital infections
according to Master in Science Epidemiologyst Ileana Frometa Suarez,
from Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospitals, mortality would be 16,500 deaths a year.
Some doctors consulted consider this rate of infections quite high, but
confess they have no idea of the number of deaths caused by hospital
infections, nor the exact number of people that got infected in the
hospitals they work for.
The key element in hospital infections spreading is the environment.
Hygiene is the Achilles heel of Cuban Hospitals, not only regarding
surgical instruments and medical staff, but the actual hospital
buildings in which patients are admitted, especially those recovering
from surgery or accident victims, and those recuperating from burns.
Hygiene has declined dearly in those institutions not frequented by the
government elite or tourists. Running water is not available very often
in such hospitals. Patients’ relatives must collect fresh water from
tanks available in the building.
That is the way they flush toilets, bathe or clean their sick relatives.
Often the rooms are cleaned by relatives of patients admitted because of
lack of cleaning staff or neglectful employees. Cleaning products, clean
bed linen, medical gloves and cleaning equipment are very scarce in
In addition to the poor hygiene in all institutions, infections spread
mainly through health personnel; they transmit the germs when they come
into contact with patients. Relatives are a source of infections as
well, when acting as improvised nurses due to inefficient health services.
According to a report issued in 2010 by the American Society for
Microbiology (ASM) and the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), chances of
washing hands are higher in a public restroom than in a hospital.
According to the World Health Organization, 60% of health professionals
do not comply with the requirement to wash their hands so it is easy to
get the picture on how many patients’ relatives do not comply, either
because of lack of publicity or because of a non-existent hygiene
culture in that regard.
With such negative picture of Hygiene in our hospitals, it is not
overstated that hospital infections are one of the biggest challenges
for Cuban Health System, even if government officials do not talk about
it or publish actual statistics.
Source: Hospitals, “You Are on Your Own” / Julio Cesar Alvarez |
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