The number of people claiming compensation for a hospital infection may be just the tip of the iceberg, new research suggests.
Scientists have concluded that filthy stethoscopes may be helping to spread dangerous bugs around doctors’ surgeries and hospitals.
One stethoscope was shown to be more contaminated with bacteria than the palm of a doctor’s hand, after being used to listen to 71 patients. The potentially fatal superbug MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) was one of the bacteria spreading from patients.
The results imply that stethoscopes should be disinfected as thoroughly as a physician’s hands, claim the researchers.
Infected patients may be able to claim
About a tenth of hospital patients acquire some kind of infection and some may be able to claim compensation.
Dr Didier Pittet is from the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety at University of Geneva Hospitals in Switzerland.
His crew undertook research in which 71 patients were examined by one of three doctors using sterile gloves and a stethoscope. Various parts of the doctors’ hands and the stethoscope were monitored for bacteria after each examination.
The part of the stethoscope that is pressed onto a patient’s skin was more severely contaminated than the doctors’ hands, bar the fingertips.
The stethoscope tube also was covered in more bacteria than the back of the doctors’ hand.
Dr Pittet said: “From infection control and patient safety perspectives, the stethoscope should be regarded as an extension of the physician’s hands and be disinfected after every patient contact.”
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Source: BBC News