A study by McGill University researchers that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that a private room in a hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) can decrease the chances of contracting an infection.
The study compared rates of infection in an ICU before and after the hospital changed from shared rooms with curtains to private, single rooms. The results of the study showed that the combined rate of infection for C. difficile, MRSA (methiciliin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), and vancomycin-resistant Enteroccucus decreased by 54% after the change to private rooms.
Private rooms can cut down on the number of people a person suffering from infection is exposed to, which reduces the transmission of bacteria and germs. Private rooms may use better infection control practices, which helps reduce the incidence of infection.
Clostridium difficile (C.difficile) is a naturally occurring bacteria that can cause serious diarrhea and intestinal problems in the elderly and other patients with compromised immune systems who are taking antibiotics. Left Untreated, Stomach Aches Can Be Deadly for Elderly Nursing Home Patients”)
Many cases of C. difficile occur in healthcare settings because of increased use of antibiotics and a high density of people vulnerable to infection. Elderly patients (≥ 65 years old) are ten times more likely to suffer from a C. difficile infection than younger people.
MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is another infection that is a serious problem in health care settings, especially for patients who have undergone surgery or other invasive procedures. Healhcare-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA) is caused by staph bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotics that are typically used to treat staph infections. (See Nursing Homes Abuse Blog “ Nursing Homes Remain Ideal Breeding Grounds for Strains of MRSA Infections”)
Because elderly patients are more susceptible to contracting dangerous infections, hospitals should make efforts to provide private rooms to elderly patients. The added cost of private rooms can be countered by the money saved from not having to treat patients for hospital-acquired infections. Patients in the ICU who contract an infection usually have a longer average hospital stay by about 8-9 days, which costs $3.5 billion per year in the United States.
Therefore, for these health and financial incentives, hospitals should look into creating more private ICU rooms in order to cut the rate of dangerous infections.
Special thanks to Heather Keil, J.D. for her assistance with this Nursing Homes Abuse Blog entry.