An amputee patient with MRSA (Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is pictured during surgery to clean his wound, in the operating theatre of the Unfallkrankenhaus Berlin (UKB) hospital in Berlin February 29, 2008.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
After the Health Ministry failed to publicize in recent years the number of nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections that kill between 4,000 and 6,000 mostly elderly and chronically ill patients annually, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman announced on Wednesday it would do so in four months.
Knesset State Control Committee chairwoman Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) said the problem of in-house hospital infections is getting “worse and more serious” every year, especially in hospitals located in the periphery.
Legal action was taken seven months ago to force the ministry to reveal the statistics.
Rachel Edri, the legal adviser of the Movement for Freedom of Information, argued that “for two years already, the ministry has promised to publish a report on hospital infections but it has not done so.”
The Yesh Atid MK charged that most hospitals lack full data on the worrisome phenomenon, and called for increasing awareness through a ministry information campaign of the problem.
The shortage in hospital manpower and the fact that some doctors and nurses do not wash their hands properly between patients are causes of infections, Elharar said, adding that visitors should also be required to soap up.
The ministry report, Litzman promised, would be “comprehensive and include the type of pathogens and the causes of their spread.”
“In general, the health system is good, and life expectancy is rising. But there is a gap between infections in medical institutions in the center of the country and those in the periphery,” he added.
Health Ministry associate director-general Dr. Boaz Lev explained that the problem of nosocomial infections exists all over the world, and that it was difficult to link deaths to infections at all or to specific infections.
“We are working to reduce hospital crowding and to collect data and take action according to them,” said Lev. “Hospitals that are more affected are those whose patients come more from old-age homes. We identify the susceptible patients in advance and try to isolate them.”
Shaare Zedek Medical Center director-general Prof. Jonathan Halevy told the committee that “Israel is not in a good place” in the comparison of nosocomial infections in OECD countries.
The national director of the Center for Preventing Infections, Prof. Yehuda Carmeli, warned that “comparing the hospitals is very complicated. One must be careful not to do so unfairly.”
Dr. Mitchell Schwaber, director of the National Unit for Infection Control, promised that data on infections has been recently collected on an ongoing basis and transferred to all the hospital directors.
But Prof. Natan Keller, chairman of the Israeli Society for Infectious Diseases, declared that hospitals don’t have as many nurses as required by regulations to prevent infections in hospitals.