Hospital infections kill 30,000 a year

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Number of hospital infections considerably higher than previously assumed: 30,000 deaths annually due to hospital germs

The risk of infection with dangerous hospital germs is too high in German clinics. The Federal Government has therefore launched a bill to help improve the hygiene situation in hospitals significantly and thus reduce the risk of infection to an acceptable level.

When the bill to reduce the risk of infection in German clinics was presented, the black and yellow federal government previously assumed that there would be around 400,000 to 600,000 hospital infections and 7,500 to 15,000 deaths annually. Some of these “infections and deaths can be avoided by means of suitable preventive measures”, according to the wording in the draft law of the CDU / CSU and FDP. However, the Federal Government has apparently always used the wrong numbers in its considerations. Because in a statement to the health committee of the Bundestag of German medical organizations, the annual number of fatalities is given twice as high as before.

Hospital infections claim 30,000 lives annually in Germany According to the German Society for Hospital Hygiene (DGKH), the Society for Hygiene, Environmental Medicine and Preventive Medicine (GHUP) and the Federal Association of Physicians in the Public Health Service (BVÖGD), 30,000 people die of an infection in Germany each year so-called hospital germs. Overall, the risk of infection in hospitals is considerably higher than previously assumed, the medical organizations report. Contrary to the Federal Government's assumptions, experts such as Klaus-Dieter Zastrow from the German Society for Hospital Hygiene came to the conclusion that "of the approximately 18 million patients in Germany, at least four percent, ie 720,000 people, are infected with germs in hospitals". “We suspect that it is actually five percent. That would be 900,000 infections, ”emphasized Zastrow. In contrast, the maximum of 600,000 hospital infections discussed by the federal government seem to be desirable. The opposition in the Bundestag sees itself confirmed by the new figures in its criticism, because the bill has so far not gone far enough for all opposition groups. They are calling for more drastic measures to reduce the risk of infection in German hospitals to an acceptable level.

Data on hospital infections almost 20 years old The figures on hospital infections taken into account by the Federal Ministry of Health date back to the 1990s and determine an infection rate of just 3.5 percent per year in around 15 million patients treated in hospitals. These figures are "extremely low even in international comparison and (...) certainly do not correspond to the actual prevalence of nosocomial infections", the organizations said to the health committee. In this context, nosocomial infections are understood to be the infections caused by medical treatment that has taken place. The doctors also emphasized that infections that occur in rehabilitation clinics, in practices for outpatient surgery or in the home care of patients should also be taken into account - however, this is not the case in the underlying study. The Federal Government's goal of reducing the number of infections by a minimum of 20 to 30 percent with the current draft law seems rather unrealistic in view of the significantly higher number of people affected.

Draft law to reduce infection numbers by up to 30 percent In the federal government's bill to reduce the risk of infection in German hospitals, the CDU, CSU and FDP assume that "the number of nosocomial infections, in particular with resistant pathogens (...) will be improved, among other things Compliance with hygiene rules and a proper prescription of antibiotics as well as the consideration of cross-sectoral prevention approaches can be reduced ”. By strengthening the quality and transparency of hygiene in medical facilities, 20 to 30 percent of infections are to be avoided in the future. A key point in the new bill is the introduction of nationwide guidelines for the design of hospital hygiene regulations at the state level. So far, the establishment of the hygiene regulations has been voluntary and only in Bavaria, Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland and Saxony have such regulations been introduced.

Hygiene regulations to reduce the risk of infection Not only does the hygiene regulations stipulate compliance with certain hygiene regulations in the clinics, it also regulates the use of antibiotics. Because the negligent use of antibiotics, according to the experts, has led to a massive spread of multi-resistant pathogens that are immune to all common antibiotics. According to the DGKH, multi-resistant pathogens such as MRSA, VRE and ESBL are particularly threatening for the health of patients, and the MRSA pathogens, multi-resistant bacteria of the genus Staphylococcus aureus (staphylococci), are relatively widespread in German clinics. While the development of resistance is favored by the improper use of antibiotics, the transmission of the germs to the hospital patients is mostly due to the lack of compliance with the hygiene regulations in the hospitals, the experts at the DGKH explained.

Opposition called for more comprehensive measures than hospital hygiene regulations However, not only medical professionals from the DGKH, GHUP and BVÖGD doubt whether stricter hygiene regulations are sufficient to get a grip on the numbers of infections that have now become known, but the opposition is also calling for significantly more comprehensive measures. The Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen faction emphasized the importance of a uniform regulation for the federal government and the federal states, although competencies that normally belong to the federal states should also be assumed by the federal government. In addition, the Greens are calling for risk patients to be screened in order to identify possible infections and take appropriate preventive measures before they are admitted to inpatient facilities. The SPD faction also advocates the training of more specialists in hygiene and infection prevention to ensure the implementation of the measures adopted. This is to ensure that the guidelines and standards for combating hospital germs can also be implemented effectively. The DGKH also endorsed this request.

Shortage of skilled workers in the field of hospital hygiene According to the Infection Protection Initiative, the impending shortage of skilled workers should also be taken into account by setting up your chairs for hygiene at German universities, because there are currently only six such chairs across Germany. The left campaigned in the health committee for the obligation to report infections with multi-resistant germs and called for the health authorities to be able to punish violations of the guidelines. In addition to the measures aimed at the clinics, both the Greens and the left demanded that antibiotic use in animal husbandry should be reduced to the “level required by veterinary medicine in order to prevent the further spread of resistant pathogens. (fp)

Also read:
Hospital germs: Staphylococci prefer blood
Infection risk in the hospital
Resistant bacteria in German hospitals
Vaccination against multi-resistant hospital germs
Hygiene regulation effective against hospital germs?

Image: Gerd Altmann /

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