HAIs: Killing Patients 1 Wide-Body Jet at a Time
This past Saturday, July 6, 2013, headlines were taken over by Asiana Airlines Flight 214’s crash landing at the San Francisco airport. People around the world, including myself, refreshed the newsfeeds on our homepages and phones constantly, waiting for updates and trying to put together what happened detail by detail.
First: The news that a plane had crashed. Quick, who do I know that was flying somewhere today? Text them, call them, check to see if they’re okay.
Then: The when and where. San Francisco? Oh no, that’s a huge airport. Are they shutting it down? Do they think it was an attack? Should we be scared?
Next: The casualties. How many people died? Two? That’s better than I expected. How many were injured? 182? How serious are their conditions? Are they going to be okay?
Pretty soon: A picture of the victims. Two 16 year old girls? My cousin is 16, my neighbor is 16. What would I do if it was them that died?
Finally: A timeline of events. When did things on the plane start to go wrong? How did this happen? Whose fault is it? Should I be scared to fly?
Events like this raise questions, fears, investigations, and sometimes anger—all rightfully so. People should be upset that innocent lives have been lost, and there should be pressure on the airline to find out what happened. A tragedy that could possibly have been prevented needs to be analyzed so that it IS prevented in the future.
But what about the lives lost in tragedies not considered “headline-worthy”?
About 100,000 people die every year from Healthcare-Acquired Infections (HAIs). That number turns out to be equivalent to one wide-body jet crash every single day. In other words, it’s like having Flight 214’s crash repeated 365 days of the year, only with zero survivors.
So where are the headlines on that? Why aren’t we constantly checking our phones for updates on what is happening to hospital patients like we did with the plane crash? Why aren’t we putting the same amount of pressure on healthcare facilities with high infection rates as we are on airlines with plane crashes?
Is it because there’s no dramatic video footage to play like that of a plane going down in flames? Is it because we don’t want to acknowledge that the place we go to be cured could, in fact, leave us worse off than we started? Or is because bacteria and viruses are invisible culprits that are hard to point a finger at, unlike the weather, a pilot, terrorists, or a faulty engine?
I hope they figure out what went wrong on Asiana Airlines Flight 214 as quickly as possible so future plane crashes can be prevented. I also hope some of the other kinds of tragedies can be prevented as well.
If only we gave as much thought and concern to issues like plane crashes and infection prevention before disasters happen as we do afterwards. Sometimes that is a hard pill to swallow. But in the case of HAIs, if we band together and draw some attention to the issue before more tragedies happen, we won’t need to swallow some of those pills in the future. We won’t need to lose the equivalent of one wide-body jet full of people every day. Losing loved ones is difficult, especially when we question if it could have been prevented.
Thank you to our source phys.org