MRSA: Patients Ignored, Left to Die

(Find an update to this post: MRSA, Victimization and Shooting the Messenger)

In the past two days, I have heard three stories, all related to MRSA and other hospital acquired staph infections, and all relating to heinous — even (in my not-so-humble-opinion) criminal acts on the parts of healthcare providers or politicos.

One story came from a colleague who visited a woman in the hospital. The woman contracted an infection after surgery almost a year ago. She is still in the hospital, on life support, not because of the surgery, but because the infection has just consumed her.

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13 Responses to “MRSA: Patients Ignored, Left to Die”

  1. 1 Dr Kadiyali M Srivatsa January 9, 2008 at 11:54 am

    One of the best ways to get rid of a patient in the hospital is to have a urinary catheter installed. Almost half of all infections acquired at hospitals are in the urinary tract, and most are linked to catheters. This I call as “Modern day euthanasia”. Urinary catheters are often inserted in very sick or elderly patient and are not the most common practical procedure when compared to intravenous cannulae. One in every eight patient entering hospital is said to have an intravenous cannula inserted. The incidence of significant local or bloodstream infection associated with peripheral venous cannula is said to be higher than initially estimated. Enormous number of intravenous cannulae currently used in clinical practice may result in an increasing number of intravenous cannula related complications such as phlebitis, thrombosis and bacteraemia. Ported cannulae banned in USA as this is associated with higher incidence of infection but in UK they love it.

    The number of both community acquired and hospital acquired staphylococcal infection has increased in the past 20 years. This trend parallels the increased use of intravascular devices. Doctors have published papers pointing out intravascular device as a major contributor for spreading Staphylococcal infections, yet the headlines in news paper seem to talk about urinary catheters. I have personally warned the cannula & catheter manufacturers’ way back in 1989 but they have turned a blind eye towards this and are talking about needlestick injury.

    I feel sad we are in this situation when no doctor on earth can do anything but pray the patient lives. Healthcare is expensive, who will be ready to pay for an infection introduced to a patient in the hospital. NHS failed to compensate patients and is now planning to fine hospitals. I can see doctors refusing to carry out practical procedures, canceling or postponing operations if the patient is found to be colonized with MRSA. Insurance companies will not be able to cope and government will soon be bankrupt. We better prepare ourselves to hear and see more stories like this in the media.

  2. 2 Jeff Weber January 9, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I am a manager in the hospital and I find both the original article and first comment to be incomplete, inaccurate, and misleading. We have 3-5 antibiotic options to treat MRSA and I have never seen MRSA used as an excuse to not treat somebody, cancel a procedure, etc. This is an every day thing in hospitals that does require different antibiotics but does not result in the things described above. As for urinary catheters and IV catheters – major breakthroughs are occurring in ways to prevent IV catheter infections, and it really doesn’t have much to do with the device themselves, but rather it has to do with precautions about placing it, caring for it, how long its in, etc. And they wouldn’t use the catheters if they weren’t medically necessary.

    Like many blogs, the truth is hard to find here, and the allegations are off base.

  3. 3 Robert Johnson January 9, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    I agree with Mr. Weber in that the article and the first reply and not only erroneous, but dangerous.

    I work as a family nurse practitioner in a busy Level I Trauma Center. We see at least five to six cases of MRSA infections a day. These sites are generally incised and drained, packed with gauze, the patient placed on antibiotics pending a culture and sensitivity, and asked to return in 48 hours for a recheck. The packing is removed in 48 hours and the culture is checked to make sure the patient is on a medication that the bacteria involved (usually MRSA) is sensitive to.

    Emergency rooms do not turn away patients, and we treat each patient the same….with the same courtesy and concern as any other patient. We even go out of our way to prescribe medications that are on the Walmart and Target 4 dollar list. The two meds considered most effective against MRSA are on these cheap med lists.

    I would urge you to contact medical professionals when writing articles like this in order to get the best information you can and to avoid misleading readers who already suspect that the healthcare system simply exists to take their money for little service in return.

    Thank you.

  4. 4 Perrin January 9, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Trisha, there are two kinds of MRSA. They are probably related but are distinctly different, and it is important to know which one you are talking about.

    One is the hospital-acquired variety. The other is community-associated, which is what Jeff more than likely had. CA-MRSA typically presents as a skin infection and is rarely serious. Although it’s resistant to methicillin, it generally responds to a number of other cheap antibiotics. It is not the “superbug” that it’s made out to be – so yes, indeed, the ER doctor was more or less correct (although perhaps not diplomatic) when he said it has been blown out of proportion.

    You ask what the public can do. Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene. Do not share towels at the gym. Towel off the exercise equipment before you use it. Wash your gym clothing on a regular basis. If a family member has recently been in the hospital, do not share sheets, towels, pillows, etc. Launder bedding, clothing and towels frequently. If you have a cut or lesion, keep it covered with gauze or a bandage. And for heaven’s sake don’t touch it or allow other people to touch it.

    Maxine’s family and Jeff might have been spared their misery if they had used some common-sense precautions.

    I find it hard to believe no one will treat Maxine’s family. I find it hard to believe that the woman in your first anecdote would remain hospitalized on life support for an entire year. I’m wondering if we (and you) are really hearing the full story here. A little less credulity might be in order.

  5. 5 Trisha Torrey January 9, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Thanks to each of you for posting.

    Perrin — yes — I am fully aware of the two kinds of MRSA and have written about them before. By all means, hygiene will help — and the public needs to be aware (“harping on the handwashing”) but for the doctor to laugh and tell Jeff it was blown out of proportion — on the heels of media about young people who had died? Jeff was taking the precautions he needed to take — and the doctor was not. The doctor was supposedly the professional. The situation was not handled by the doctor well.

    Mr. Webber and Dr. Johnson — if you could let me know where you are located, I would be happy to ask Maxine to contact you. She is frustrated beyond words and I report only what she has told me. The fact is that even if her story is skewed by her perceptions, they are still her perceptions and not only is she not being treated, she is being shunned. If you have a solution for her, she would like to hear it first, and I would like to hear it right behind her. Even her insurance company told her she might have to go out of state to get the diagnosis and treatment she and her family need.

    What I know is that some hospitals have become more diligent and insist on the precautions necessary to prevent MRSA and other staph infections from spreading, although in some cases, they will still spread. What I also know is that too many hospitals don’t. Your infection-stopping practices may work well in your facilities, but those precautions are all but ignored in others. You absolutely know this to be the case yourselves. And if you don’t, you just aren’t paying attention.

    You can dog on me all you want, but the fact is that my mother in law was a victim of a hospital acquired infection, and two other friends died after being infected with MRSA, all three within the past year.

    If I can prevent bad practice on the part of professionals from killing one more person, I will do so.

    Creating awareness goes a long way.


  6. 6 Bobbie Mendenhall January 9, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    The article was interesting and scary to read but the original writer referred to the infections “staff” infections. I believe that even though the infections may be “staff” infections the correct term is “staph”.

  7. 7 Trisha Torrey January 9, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    You’re right Bobbie — it was corrected earlier today, but Fox News picked it up with the error….

    That’s what happens when I blog before I drink my morning coffee.

    Thanks for the correction.

  8. 8 Perrin January 9, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Trisha, I am sure these people are frustrated. But I think it would be wise of you to try to sort through their stories first, so they aren’t colored by misperceptions or misinformation. I mean, we only have Jeff’s word for it that this was the conversation he had with the ER doctor. I most certainly am not trying to imply that he’s lying, just pointing out that this is only one side of the story.

    The first rule of reporting: Take nothing at face value.

    I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, I really do. But it strikes me as irresponsible of you to grab the ball and run with it on the basis of unverified anecdotes, and then to fan the flames with words like “heinous” and “criminal.”

    JMHO, of course.

  9. 9 Dawn January 17, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    My mother passed away at the age of 67 from mrsa which was contracted in the hospital through a wound on her foot. She spent 6 weeks in the hospital and then was sent to a nursing home where she passed away one week later. I do believe hospitals should be held accountable for this type of thing. To make matters worse this happened in a world renown medical facility in Minnesota.

  10. 10 Marla January 20, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Fresno, CA – Illegal altering of sewer lines is leaving a trail of lung/respiratory, asthma and of course, infections – including staph. Reporting this to the City of Fresno resulted in lies, threats, name-calling and finally, committing perjury to discredit their own records! There are documents, photographs and witnesses as further evidence of what is taking place.
    Upon seeing the escalation in staph they added more medical coverage for themselves, specifically, to cover staph! While instructing the public to “wash our hands.” MRSA is also airborne – how dare they do this to us.
    Is this nothing less than bioterrorism or even attempted murder!?!

  11. 11 Medifix February 23, 2008 at 5:47 am

    Mr Weber & Johnson, are not clinicians who work in acute intensive care set-up like doctors. We have been working as doctors since 1983 and know what we are talking about.

    The original article is a fact; we have come across some patients who are not operated on because they are found to be MRSA positive. As a doctor we have to respect and strictly follow our ethics. If we find treating a patient with a drug, device, procedure that could endanger their life, then we are not allowed to treat.

    Knowing introducing MRSA into blood and tissue can result in toxic shock and death, then its is difficult for us to decide, what to do. So we don’t think the information is wrong or inaccurate.

  1. 1 MRSA: Victimization and Shooting the Messenger « Every Patient’s Advocate Trackback on January 10, 2008 at 5:51 am
  2. 2 MRSA: Victimization and Shooting the Messenger : Every Patient’s Advocate Trackback on January 27, 2008 at 4:38 pm
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