Infection rates at hospitals to be made public starting next year

Thousands of patients die each year from preventable causes.

Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An estimated 6,000 Israelis die each year from hospital- acquired, or nosocomial, infections. Beginning next year, rates of those infections in all medical centers will be published on the Health Ministry’s website, giving information to patients on what their risks are of becoming ill just from being in the hospital.
The move to publish comes after The Movement for Freedom of Information sued to require the ministry to publish data on infection rates, as it has done regarding comparative health indicators in hospitals.
The numbers were presented to about 1,000 attendees at the 10th annual Israel Medical Conference held at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center on Tuesday.
While Israel’s health system is among the best in the world, according to Dr. Anat Zohar, Health Ministry deputy director-general for quality control, she said there is still much left to be desired in hospital hygiene and cleanliness.
Infections caused by improper or insufficient hand-washing between procedures, or by poor sterilization of medical equipment, can all be prevented, she said.
Nosocomial infections occurred in nearly a third of patients a month after undergoing colon operations in some hospitals, Zohar noted, while less than eight percent of such patients in other facilities got infected.
Rates of infection transmission here are higher than in many parts of Europe.
Dr. Shmuel Benenson, head of the infectious diseases unit of the Hadassah University Medical Center, said the problem is exacerbated by hospital cleaning workers working for contractors at low rates of pay.
Those conditions often cause workers “to be unaware or not to care” about the problem of in-house infection. In England, by contrast, maintenance professionals work for the hospitals, and can therefore be held to higher standards of cleanliness.
President Reuven Rivlin greeted the conference, praised the public health system and called on the government to strengthen it. Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman told the conference he would continue to fight against the proliferation of junk food and said his proposed geriatric nursing reform must be implemented.
Hadassah diabetes expert Prof. Itamar Raz denounced the overuse of sugar and salt as well as their excess presence in processed food and said they were as addictive as tobacco. Obesity rates in Israel are rising and pose great concern for the health of the nation, he said. Few members of the public recognize the dangers.
Because white bread is subsidized and the price controlled by government, it costs much less than the far healthier whole wheat alternative, Raz said.
“Our laws cause us to poison the population,” he declared.
“The poor are disadvantaged because they can’t afford whole wheat bread.”
The conference was sponsored by Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Organization and Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Haifa’s Bnai Zion Medical Center plus other businesses and organizations and was free to the public.
A full report on the Israel Medical Conference will appear on the August 28 Sunday Health Page.