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Fungal outbreak raises questions about hospital cleanliness

When you go to a hospital, you expect the best care possible. Hospitals usually display a lot of lighter colors and white linens, almost as a way of symbolizing some sort of clean or pure atmosphere -- that this is where you go to be well. And yet, the reality is often the exact opposite. The fabrics, the air, the beds: they are all filled with bacteria and, as such, hospitals have to adhere to strict guidelines about the cleanliness of their workplace. If they don't keep the hospital clean, they not only endanger the medical staffers on hand but, most notably, they endanger the patients who are expecting that clean, pure atmosphere. And that they don't contract a flesh-eating virus.

Unfortunately that last bit did occur at an unclean hospital, resulting in numerous deaths of children and many questions about why the hospital failed in its duties and why its response was lacking.

The hospital apparently failed to clean bed linens in an appropriate or timely manner, while also having poor infection controls, resulting in a fungal outbreak at the hospital. Such fungal infections are rare, but they are becoming more and more prevalent in the United States.

This story calls into question the often overlooked aspect of keeping a hospital clean. Errors by doctors and medical staffers can and will happen, but no one expects the cleaning staff to fail in a way that it would cause a patient medical harm on par with, or even exceeding, an error by medical staff.

Source: New York Times, "A Deadly Fungus and Questions at a Hospital," Ian Urbina and Sheri Fink, April 28, 2014

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