Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Insulting Boston Hospitals

Yesterday’s Boston Globe provided a striking clue on what ails our healthcare system.

Page 1 of the Health/Science section featured an article by veteran health care reporter Stephen Smith on what patients can do to protect themselves against acquiring infections while in the hospital.

Of the nine suggestions offered, seven involved monitoring hospital staff to make sure they perform their duties properly. One was to check that the beds of patients on respirators were set at a 30-degree angle. Another was to insist that body hair be removed with clippers rather than razors (one marvels that razors would even be available!!). Still another was to require that before the insertion of an IV line, the surrounding area is properly disinfected.

The clear implication is that hospitals cannot be counted on to provide care in a professional and disciplined way. One would think that in Boston of all places, the supposed Mecca of all things medical, healthcare providers would be embarrassed out of mind to have their performance so impugned. But there was no sign of that.

After many years of adulating health care providers, the public seems to find it hard to acknowledge their sloppy practices and to insist that they do something about them. When that changes, the pace of health care reform will pick up.

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