Friday, October 12, 2007

Another good hospital story out of the UK...

Some time back, I wrote a post on the potential clash between sanitation and health care in a financially constrained system. To paraphrase what I said then, if you have a certain amount of money, and you can either spend it on medicine or on a bucket, the bucket's going to lose...

Well, it appears that I was right on the money. An article appeared yesterday on the BBC news web site describing truly horrific conditions at a UK hospital. Without going into the rather nauseating details, it appears that unsanitary conditions, and the resultant spread of Clostridium Difficile infection, caused the deaths of at least 90 individuals and contributed to the deaths of another 124.

The official report summarizes it nicely:
We are concerned that where trusts are struggling with a number of problems that consume senior managers’ time, and are under severe pressure to meet targets relating to finance and access, concern for infection control may be undermined.
At least in the US, the legal system acts as a check against this kind of medieval barbarism. There are standards of care that are to be followed. A hospital where patients were left to lie in their own waste would be sued and possibly closed. The supervisory medical personnel could lose their licenses and be held financially accountable to those affected.

In the UK, patients and their families complained to the authorities, but it appears that there was no corrective action. The situation continued, and people died, for years. Only now is something happening...and it appears that it took from October 2006 until now to investigate and write a report. How could this happen? How could a government run facility, charged with maintaining the health of the populace be so poorly run?

More importantly, as the US healthcare system grows more and more expensive, and steps are made to constrain that growth, how do we prevent the same thing from happening here?
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