Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A bit of good news from the land of the bowler and the bumbershoot

The Brits have a couple of things going for them that we don't, one of which is the socialistcommunofascist National Health Service -- you know, that evil institution that deprives them of their God-given right to overpriced, overaggressive, ineffective medical care and thereby makes them all slaves. Oh yeah, death panels too. And thank God Steven Hawking doesn't live there.

Anyhow, despite all those downsides, it does mean that they can establish and enforce policies throughout all of their hospitals. And they're beating MRSA! I think it's been a little while since I wrote about this, so in case anyone doesn't know, that's Methycillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aurea. Staph is a ubiquitous bacterium and most of us have it on our skin and nasal passages, but it can cause infections in wounds, or otherwise attack people with weakened immune systems.

This used to kill people all the time, but then they discovered penicillin. For your entire life (unless you're in your 70s or older), these sorts of common infections have not been a problem. A course of pills, or a shot in the ass in severe situations, and you're good to go. But then this antibiotic resistant strain emerged, mostly found in hospitals but in the U.S. in particular increasingly in the community. It's thought that the community acquired infections can mostly be traced back to origins of the resistant bugs in hospitals, although that's not entirely clear. Anyway, once again people are dying or suffering severe tissue damage from staph infections that are very hard to kill. Many people are quite alarmed by where this might end up.

The first thing to do is not to overuse antibiotics, but in hospitals there's no avoiding them. By definition hospitals are full of sick and debilitated people, most of whom have extra holes in them with tubes going into the holes, also tubes going into the usual holes which can also carry infection, and you just have to soak them with antibiotics. But you can also use very strict infection control methods to make sure you kill as many bugs as possible that might be trying to hide out in the cracks and crevices of the tile and the machinery and the linen and on the hands of the workers and everywhere else you can think of.

The Brits have been doing that and now they've driven down the incidence rate by 80% from its peak in mid decade. Twenty five hospital trusts have had no cases at all for a year. Our fragmented system means we don't have the kind of monitoring that would even tell us how we're doing with such specificity and completeness, but I can guarantee we aren't doing nearly that well.

So chalk up another point for socialism.


C. Corax said...

Holy Toledo! When you say mid-decade, I assume you mean roughly 2005? Only 6 years ago? That is freakin' impressive!

Cervantes said...

Actually 2004 but close enough, yes. It's truly impressive what you can do when you're properly organized.