If you think people are being pushed out of hospitals sooner than they used to be you’d be right, but not necessarily because of long wait times and bed shortages. Rather, it’s because hospitals can do something to you that’s utterly counterintuitive – they can make you sicker. The chief concern is that you’ll pick up a serious infection.
For example, a recent study found that 1 in 12 adults in hospitals across Canada are either colonized or infected with a “superbug.” And that’s an underestimate because the researchers only looked at 3 superbugs: MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), VRE (vancomycin-resistant Enterococci), and Clostridium difficile.
Dr. Brad Spellberg, an infectious disease specialist and the Chief Medical Officer for Los Angeles County-University of Southern California, explains the issue.
To begin with, Spellberg says, understand that hospitals are a place where the sickest people in society are gathered together. Therefore, there’s lots of antibiotics being used and so you’re breeding superbugs that become resistant to the antibiotics. And so the bacteria you encounter in the hospital are a lot nastier than the stuff you’re going to pick up at home.
In other words, patients come into the hospital for whatever ails them and while there they pick up an infection, and the next thing you know that 1 or 2 day hospital stay turns into a week or a month. Hence the saying among physicians, “The longer the stay, the longer they stay.” Hence the new thinking, “get people out of the hospital before they get a complication of being in the hospital.”
There’s two interesting sidebars to this.
One, these nasty hospital superbugs are seen more in developed countries than in underdeveloped countries. These superbugs and the infections you get in the hospital are side effects of modern medical therapy. For example, all those lines and tubes that permit various medicines to get into your body also give bacteria easy access to your body. Before they had to fight through your skin. Now they have a direct route into your bloodstream through these “super-highways.”
Two, your lifestyle matters. For example, wear a seat belt so if you’re in a car accident you don’t end up in the ICU with a head injury, but in the ER with minor cuts and bruises.
Dr. Spellberg’s remarks can be found in the following interview. Most of the good stuff is explained in just the first 3 minutes. Aside from being a leading world authority on the subject, Spellberg is a compelling speaker and writer. Anything from this guy is well worth checking out.