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Bug Bash Spotlights Concern For Cleaner Heath Care Facilities

Originally Posted: August 10, 2009

Edward Callaghan

Betsy McCaughey speaks about hospital infections. Photos by John Wegorzewski

Southampton - Once again former Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey has sounded the alarm about the unsanitary conditions in the nation's health care facilities that contribute to the massive number of patient deaths as a result of infections picked up in hospitals across the country. Her warnings were made at the annual Bug Bash held at philanthropist Henry Buhl's magnificent estate "Girasole" in Southampton on Friday, July 24. The bugs in question, being such nasty items as Swine flu, MRSA and C. Dificile are not the garden variety attacking your tomatoes and dahlias!

Host Henry Buhl and Amy Treitel.

McCaughey is the founder of RID, a not-for-profit educational campaign committed to correcting a deadly problem that kills more people each year in the U.S. than AIDS, breast cancer, and auto accidents combined! And the shocking fact is as McCaughey demonstrated in her remarks to the audience of major donors, health care officials and medical researchers that the deaths are needless and preventable by very simple means. Not only that, it is a costly situation draining our already overburdened health care system.

Says McCaughey, "The death toll is staggering, at least 103,000 lives a year. So is the economic cost. Hospital infections add over $30 billion a year to the nation's health tab in added hospital costs alone." This simple statement drew gasps from the guests especially when McCaughey told them how easily avoidable these deaths were. Continuing she noted," These infections are almost all preventable. An increasing number of hospitals in the U.S. are proving it, reducing some of the deadliest types of infections by 90 percent. We have the knowledge to prevent this problem. What has been lacking is the will." She further noted the $30 billion figure was the same as the Medicare Part D that would pay for drugs for seniors.
McCaughey shared a frightening statistic, one out of every 10 patients will pick up an infection in the course of their stay." These infections result in longer hospital stays and more procedures to cure the infections contracted there.

RID founder Betsy McCaughey with Jean Shafirof.

That is why McCaughey founded the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (RID) - to motivate hospitals to make infection a top priority; to disseminate to hospitals the latest, most authoritative research on how to prevent infections; to make the compelling economic case that preventing infections not only saves lives but also makes hospitals more profitable; to ensure that no matter where you live, you can find out which hospitals in your area have the worst infection problems; and to inform patients about steps they can take to reduce risk of infection.

She outlined the three simple steps that hospitals and medical personnel can take to reduce these numbers dramatically, and stated that the simple procedures - hand washing by all personnel before they even touch a patient; cleaning and constantly re-cleaning all medical equipment and surfaces and the screening of incoming patients by a simple oral swab test to check for MRSA and C. Dificile, which are the two most easily transmitted diseases in a hospital setting.

Citing one incredible statistic that 77 percent of blood pressure cuffs are infected and continue to be wheeled from room to room spreading disease in their wake, she suggested that patients take the initiative and ask for a clean cuff or at least a layer of tissue paper between the cuff and the patient's skin. Simple but effective! She also stressed environmental cleaning which is so important that when it is not done regularly and rigorously, can be a fatal mistake.

Nancy Jane Loewy and Ann Rapp at Bug Bash.

On the very real practical and financial side, she warned that hospital infections could be the next asbestos with hospital infections becoming a major cause for litigation against health care facilities - a message she has bringing to hospital boards and medical schools around the country.

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America and RID have urged hospitals everywhere to implement the precautions that have nearly eradicated drug-resistant infections in Holland, Finland, Denmark, and in the few hospitals in the U.S. Hospitals that continue to ignore this call will face embarrassing public comparisons and numerous lawsuits as well.

McCaughey continued "When medical students put on their white coats and swear the Hippocratic Oath, they should be taught how to do no harm. Preventing the spread of bacteria is an essential part of that lesson. They should learn it before they go out on the hospital floors and touch their first patient." she said.

McCaughey also announced new curricula for medical and nursing students that would educate them on these very fundamental safety precautions funded by the Charles Foundation of the late film producer and Hamptonite Charles Evans whose widow Bonnie Pfeiffer was on hand for the presentation.
Following her talk guests mingled in Buhl's sunflower filled library sampling wonderful hors d'oeuvres from Four Seasons Caterer Southampton created by Chef Jeremy Palmer. Among those partaking in the informative evening were NancyJane Loewy, Ann Rapp, RID board member Charles Brunie, philanthropist Jean Shafiroff, Chit Sharma of Credit Suisse which is funding advanced technology to avoid such infections with Diffusion Technology's Michael Walden, Joe Crudden and Derek Johns were all present.

Guests in Henry Buhl's sunflower filled library listened attentively to Betsy McCaughey's talk about RID.

To learn more about RID go to www.hospitalinfection.org.

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