Saturday, September 22, 2007

Cleanup time.

It seems, as he gets older, our Prime Minister is concerned about the state of our hospitals.

So he should be, and not just because, as he ages, he runs the risk of spending time in one of them. In fact, the measures he proposes are precisely those measures that used to be in effect before cost-cutting put an end to them.

He proposes that every hospital should be cleaned and disinfected over the next year. I'd suggest that every hospital should be cleaned and disinfected daily, as used to be the case. Remember that hospital smell? The phenolic disinfectant odour that pervaded everything within the building? It's not there any more.

Instead, we have MRSA and Clostridium difficile running around the beds. Just two of the reasons that I will never set foot in a hospital unless I'm beaten unconscious and carried in there. These little beasties are resistant to antibiotics but they're not resistant to disinfectants. Once they get into you, you can't get them out so the sensible thing is to kill them with disinfectant before they get anywhere near a patient.

Oh, and just to dispel a new urban myth - fifty percent of the population do not carry MRSA in their noses. Fifty percent might carry SA - Staphylococcus aureus - but not MRSA. The one up your nose, if you have it, can be killed with antibiotics.

MRSA is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and is specifically a hospital problem. It's spreading out of the hospitals but that's where it came from.

So Mr. Brown is at last going to scrub our hospitals clean of the pestilence his government allowed to fester there. I look forward to photos of him in a pinafore, on his knees, scrubbing away. That's not likely to happen though. The cynic in me suspects that once he's passed the next election, it'll be back to cost-cutting to pay for more suited monkeys who have no more idea of running a hospital than a fish has of operating a passenger jet.

It would have been cheaper, and less deadly, not to have cut costs on cleaning in the first place.

Don't you think so, Mr. Brown?


ThatGreenyFlower said...

For an international perspective, I offer this: MRSA is no longer just a hospital problem in the US. Most of the community-acquired infections (skin, primarily) that I see are MRSA now. Thankfully it's still mostly susceptible to sulfa drugs...for now.

Our hospital is disgusting...but not any more so than any other hospital I've ever worked in. I hate, hate, hate the thought that I myself might have to lie in one of those beds with some kind of horrible wound. I'd rather perish on the curb.

I don't think hospitals have to be beautiful, but I think they must be clean. The current trend here is to make the rooms look nice, however. Does anyone with an ounce of brain care about how they look when the alternative is ugly but clean? God, I hope not.

Sorry to rant, but you've struck a nerve.

Romulus Crowe said...

It's a sore nerve here too. MRSA has come up in the community, in gyms and community centres and once in food (although that was stamped on very hard). Clostridium difficile has been involved in about 3000 deaths in the last year and it shouldn't even exist in a hospital.

There was a proposal to use copper instead of stainless steel for handrails, door handles and taps, but nobody gave any thought to the issue of copper toxicity in humans or the soft nature of the metal.

Brass would be a better choice. You know, the metal that all door handles, taps and handrails used to be made of? Back when phenol was the disinfectant of choice.

The 18th century has some lessons for modern hospitals, which is bizarre and not a little shameful. Has progress really set us back so far?

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