Contaminated Care

1 decade 1 year 9 months ago Friday, January 12 2007 Jan 12, 2007 Friday, January 12, 2007 4:41:29 PM CST January 12, 2007 in News

A little sicker because Raymond developed a staph infection.

"I was put on antibiotics for a year. I had an intravenous pump on my waist the whole time, pumping IV fluids into my body for seven months or so," he explained.

Raymond also had four surgeries, all because of a fall on the ice.

"It was a very, very scary time for our family," said Wagner's father, Ray. "It started out as a broken arm, which was bad enough as it was, but then in the following weeks it turned into this infection that really could be life threatening."

The Wagner family had to find a way to deal with the situation.

"Initially I was angry, but then it slowly became an attitude of, 'Oh this happened to me, let's make sure nobody else has to go through this,'" Raymond said.

Raymond and his dad met with local officials to develop a bill requiring Missouri hospitals to make their infection rates public.

"This is a welcome new event that's come along to better enable us to get data on how well we're doing in terms of hospital-acquired infections," said Dr. Mike Cooperstock of University Hospital in Columbia.

Ray Wagner said the information is important for families to have.

"How could we have known which hospital we should take our son to and which one was more likely to cause a life-threatening infection?" he asked.

Hospitals across the U.S. are repeatedly cited for not following basic methods to prevent infections. The most basic, and most often ignored, also leads to most hospital infections: medical staff not washing their hands.

According to deficiency reports KOMU obtained from the Department of Health and Senior Services, hospital staff fail to wash their hands and also fail in other areas. A few examples: At Bothwell Regional Health Center in Sedalia, inspectors observed infected infants who were not isolated from healthy babies. At the Area District Hospital in Hermann, infectious waste was stored next to clean linens. And at Boone Hospital in Columbia, equipment exposed to an infected patient was left in the hall.

Raymond Wagner's experience changed his perspective of hospitals.

"I'm on edge when I'm there. I watch what the doctors do. If they haven't washed their hands, I may ask them to wash their hands," he said.

Many infected patients don't have another chance. William Catherall died suddenly in a Springfield hospital when he contracted an infection after heart surgery.

Legislators and hospitals say making infection rates public will help keep them low. But Ray Wagner has another suggestion.

"My advice to patients and their loved ones is that when their family and friends come to visit them, don't ask for flowers or candy, but rather ask them to bring you some anti-bacterial soap," he said.

The Missouri Hospital Infection Prevention Act took effect Dec. 31., making individual hospital infection rates available to the public.

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