Why Hospitals Are Dangerous And What To Do About It

We like to think of hospitals as places we go to recover. But more often than not we can end up coming out in a far worse state that we went in. In a word, hospitals can be downright dangerous and a risk to our lives. Here are several frightening ways hospitals can damage your health.

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They Increase The Risk Of Avoidable Illness

We’ve known for a while that hospitals aren’t the safest places to get better. And this is especially true for people who have weakened immune systems. But it’s only recently that hospitals have started collecting statistics on the sheer scale of the problem. The Institute of Medicine reported over a decade ago that nearly 100,000 people were dying each year because of medical errors. That number has only risen since then, and some estimates put it at over 300,000 per year in at present. Clearly this is an alarming statistic.

Immune System
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What is more alarming is that many of the illnesses and diseases that people suffer from are entirely avoidable. We’re not talking about complicated surgical procedures here. We’re talking about medical staff washing their hands on a regular basis with soap and water.

Over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen the rise in antibiotic resistant infections. Take tuberculosis, for example. This used to be a disease that could be treated with a simple course of antibiotics. Over the years, TB has built up a resistance to antibiotics. And now there are strains of the diseases in many hospitals that can’t be treated at all. The same goes for bugs like MRSA. These can’t be treated with antibiotics, so the only way they can be stopped is through cleaning. But, of course, many medical professionals don’t have clean hands at the top of their list of priorities.


Your Operation Could Be Botched

Each year thousands of operations across the US are botched. In other words, trained professionals make mistakes, and the consequences can be devastating. Sites like www.DJHernandez.com document some of the most egregious medical malpractice cases.

Emergency Room
Image source: Public Domain Images

The media has also reported similarly disturbing cases. In one case a 39-year-old woman went to the hospital for a routine hysterectomy. But on the operating table, one of the doctors put breathing apparatus down her gullet, not her windpipe. Unable to breathe, the woman quickly died on the operating table. It was only afterward that the postmortem revealed the mistake.

Many other dangerous cases occur when hospital staff fail to identify a patient correctly. If the names of the patients are confused, this can lead to a patient having the wrong procedure, resulting in permanent damage.


Your Long Term Mental Health Could Be Affected

One of the biggest problems for elderly people is getting on with their life again after they have been discharged. You would have thought that once the problems with their health had been sorted that they would be able to carry on as before. But, unfortunately, this rarely happens. The problem for elderly people is that they become weaker the longer they are in the hospital. Long stays in bed affect their muscle tone and their strength. Returning to normal life afterward becomes increasingly difficult. Patients often find that they have lost some of their mental agility and physical strength. And this means that they often need extra care while at home.

The loss of independence obviously leads to a lower quality of life. But it also affects one’s state of mind. Though they may put on a brave face, losing independence profoundly affects the elderly. And that can be a source of great sorrow.

But even if you’re not old, you may still suffer depression and anxiety in the aftermath of a hospital visit. The very fact that hospital visits cost so much can be a cause for concern. Many people get treated in hospital and are then saddled with enormous bills they struggle to pay off. Sometimes the repayments can go on for years and cause a lot of grief for people who aren’t insured.


They Increase The Risk Of Injury

When we think of dangerous places, we typically think about oil rigs and construction sites. Most of us wouldn’t immediately think of a hospital – a place where people are supposed to be getting better. And if we did think of a hospital as being dangerous, we wouldn’t assume it was because of injury. We’d blame it on the superbugs.

But the truth is that hospitals are very dangerous for patients regarding physical injury too. It’s not because they are at risk of being assaulted. It’s just because of the fact that so many patients are put on psychoactive drugs. Of course, they’re not called that – they’re called sedatives. But these tend to have the same effect. Many of these drugs make it hard for patients to maintain control over their bodies. Just walking down the hospital corridor to get a snack can be a challenge. And when you mix that with the number of elderly people in a hospital, you have a recipe for disaster. Studies have shown that patients who received sedatives were about three times more likely to fall than those who hadn’t. That’s a big difference.

But what was perhaps more surprising was that fact that injuries didn’t necessarily have to be inflicted. Elderly patients also suffered injuries, just as a byproduct of having weaker muscles. As discussed, stays in hospitals usually involve very little physical activity. But this lack of physical activity is a major reason why injuries occur. When the patient does finally start moving again, they’re often weakened. And this weakness means that they’re less able to correct their balance. If they start to fall, it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll hit the deck.

Our bodies were designed to be constantly tested and strained by the force of gravity. And so when a patient remains bed-ridden for a long time, they end up losing a lot of their strength. Bone fractures increase after hospital discharge. And so too do the number of stiffened joints and other problems.


They Increase The Chance Of Psychological Harm

We like to think that hospitals are doing all they can to assist in patient recovery. And from the outside, it seems like that is what they are doing. After all, doctors and nurses all look very busy. And the hospital itself is brimming with state of the art equipment. There’s just one small problem with all of this. It’s not sufficient to help a patient recover.

So much more goes into recovery than what hospital typically offer. But many of them fall short on some of the basics. Take food, for example. Ideally, hospital food would be varied, healthy and full of flavor. Things like bean salads for lunch and pasta for dinner. But, more often than not the food on offer is mediocre. Most hospitals serve up very little fresh veg. And for patients staying for a long time, this can have damaging repercussions on their health.

hands of an elderly man
Image source: stevepb @ Pixabay

Sleep is a problem too. Many patients don’t have the luxury of staying in their own room. They have to sleep alongside other patients in a ward. While this is the way that medicine has always been done, it is hardly conducive to rest. Machines beep all night long, monitoring blood pressure and heart rate. And nurses tend to the sick throughout the night, making it almost impossible to sleep.

This toxic combination means that many people, especially the elderly, find it hard to recover in a hospital. Each year about a fifth of elderly patients in hospital develops some kind of delirium, according to research from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. And about a sixth of these people die as a result.


What Are The Solutions?

Hospitals might be dangerous places, but they are also necessary for a lot of people. Just avoiding them is not possible. So what can people do?

First off, you can just ask staff to be more sanitary. It’s not unheard of for patients to ask hospital staff to wash their hands before treatment begins. This is the best way to protect yourself against infection by any of the nasty superbugs we’ve discussed already.

Secondly, to avoid falls, you can ask for skidproof socks. Because you’ll be in bed for most of your stay, you won’t be wearing shoes the whole time. And neither will you want to be taking them on and off all the time. Investing in some skid-proof socks can help to reduce the risk of injury.

Image source: cezjaw @ Pixabay

Third, ask if you can be tested for the MRSA superbug. Right now, this is the biggest risk to elderly patients about to undergo surgery. In fact, it’s the most significant risk people face in hospital, full stop. Testing for MRSA is easy. All that’s needed is a quick nasal swab to find out whether you’re infected.

Fourth, don’t schedule your surgery for July or August. Why? Because that’s when the new doctors, fresh out of medical school, arrive. And unlike their more experienced peers, they are more likely to make mistakes.

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