Hospitals could do much more to stop C. diff.

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Clostridium difficile, commonly known as C. diff, is a potentially deadly infection of the colon, most often affecting hospital patients. But many now question whether hospitals are doing everything they can to prevent the infection from occurring.

A feature in USA Today finds that rate of C. diff remains high in the U.S., even though hospitals know how to fight the bacteria. The main barrier, says William Jarvis, who led the health care infection division at the CDC for 17 years, is cost especially when it comes to properly cleaning hospital rooms. Thus, in an effort to save money, hospitals are sometimes lax about enforcing proper preventive measures a practice that only lead to higher expenses for treatment of C. diff down the road.

Former ACSH trustee Dr. Betsy McCaughey, interviewed for the article, asserted that hospitals could be doing more to protect their patients. As founder of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (RID), Dr. McCaughey s organization prints cards outlining steps patients can take to minimize their risk of C. diff hospital infection. And though these cards are offered to hospitals for free, Dr. McCaughey notes that many hospitals don t want them. Apparently, they re not willing to admit that there is a chance a room may be contaminated.

However, to encourage hospitals to curtail infections, a new C. diff reporting rule for U.S. hospitals is scheduled to take effect next year. Cliff McDonald, a senior science adviser in the CDC s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, hopes that this change will urge hospital facilities to increase preventive actions rather than wait for infections to come to light.

ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan notes that some progress is being made, albeit slowly. It s a shame that many hospital administrators see only the short-term budgetary outflows from enforcing stricter sanitary practices, she says. They fail to realize the huge financial benefits from preventing these lingering and dangerous infections. And that doesn t even take into account the toll in terms of patient health and well-being, supposedly the hospital s most important concern.