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CDC director: Hospital infections 'unacceptable'
The staggering burden of heath care associated infections (HAIs) in lives and dollars is "unacceptable," but changing the status quo is difficult because the health care system is woefully skewed toward treatment rather than prevention, Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said recently in Atlanta at the opening of the Fifth Decennial International Conference on HAIs.
"The toll of HAIs is unacceptable," he said. "One in 20 patients in U.S. hospitals each year becomes infected. There are an estimated 100,000 deaths annually, $33 billion dollars in medical costs, longer hospitalizations and we don't [even] know what the burden is outside of hospitals.
Addressing some 3,000 attendees from 74 nations, Frieden said sharply reducing HAIs could be a critical benefit of health care reform efforts in the United States.
"We know that reducing health care infections is going to require political will and sufficient funding," he said. "Prevention is a 'best buy' in the health sector. HAI prevention is particularly a best buy because the cheapest ICU admission is the ICU admission that didn't happen. As health reform moves forward, one of the important early wins will be a substantial reduction in HAIs."
Massive federal initiatives to reduce HAIs in recent years including slashed reimbursements for preventable infections are making slow but promising progress, Frieden said.