Monday, October 15, 2007

Can't Wait for Socialized Medicine to Hit the US

In the midst of an epidemic - though of course they don't want to say that - of the latest Super Bug (Clostridium difficile or C. diff) a lot of interesting problems have come up about cleanliness in UK hospitals. NHS: 'I found a used needle by his bed' - Telegraph
After Troy's operation, he was given a stomach drain to allow his pancreas to settle down, fitted with drips and a catheter to regulate his fluids – and spent the six days recuperating in a filthy ward.

The drip stand wheels were coated in years of grime and there were unpleasant looking stains on the walls. During one of my visits, I watched in dismay as the cleaner gave a cursory mop to the middle of the bay, considering the job done.

Troy's own hygiene and comfort were no better attended. Too ill at first to wash his own face or brush his teeth, he was left to cope on his own; no one offered to help with his toilet. There was to be no bed bath, either.

Not that it would have been much use: Troy was admitted first thing Wednesday morning, but he was still lying in the same bedsheets on Friday night – by which point they had become stained with his blood.
Changing bed-linen is apparently too expensive and deemed unnecessary by the British National Health Service.

Simple measures that would prevent the spread of AIDS appear to be too expensive as well.
Even when it came to the handling of bodily fluids, including blood, hospital protocol was not rigorously followed. I was surprised to see a senior doctor in A&E trying to take a blood sample without wearing gloves. Later, Troy's drip was replaced by a member of the surgical team without the use of gloves.

When a nurse absent-mindedly used his drip arm to measure Troy's blood pressure, the inflatable cuff caused the puncture to leak and blood to drip on to the floor. "That's not supposed to happen," she said, and walked away, saying that she was now on a break.

Sadly, the wanton lack of knowledge about the dangers of blood-borne infection appears endemic in the NHS. Another patient told me that he had taken his young son into Casualty at the Hammersmith, a major teaching hospital in west London.

The child had a cut on his head and the treatment involved glueing the edges of the wound together. He was shocked to see that the tube of glue was open, having already been used on another wound. When he queried whether this might be dangerous, he was told that because the glue is so expensive, it was normal practice to use the same tube to treat several patients.
Great. When we have public health care we can look forward to it being in the same shape as public restrooms.

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