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HomeHealthBattling Healthcare-Associated Infections in Swedish Hospitals

Battling Healthcare-Associated Infections in Swedish Hospitals

Caught Off Guard: Tackling Healthcare-Associated Infections in Swedish Hospitals

Ever wondered about the flip side of the coin in Swedish healthcare? Well, it’s not all rosy. Based on a brand new survey, one in ten patients in Swedish hospitals has at least one healthcare-associated infection. Added to this, many hospitals seem to be falling short on—in healthcare hygiene—a crucial strategy for reducing the risk of infections.

Shedding Light on the Hazards

Healthcare-associated infections are those which patients contract while receiving medical treatment either in the hospital or right after they are discharged. These include pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and sepsis. The use of antibiotics is a common treatment, with 30% of all hospital patients currently undergoing antibiotic treatment.

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Quite a troublingly high figure, right? Especially so, according to Stephan Stenmark, an infectious diseases doctor and investigator at the Public Health Agency. He emphasized the gravity of the issue:

“One in ten is too many. Apart from the suffering for the patients, healthcare-associated infections contribute to the risk of increased antibiotic resistance and an unnecessary number of days of care, which increases the burden on healthcare.”

Clinging onto the Silver Lining

Although these figures might send shivers down your spine, there’s a glimmer of hope. Previous studies have indicated that at least a third of all healthcare-associated infections can be avoided. However, the issue is far from simple requiring all steps in the care chain to be functioning. This includes everything from hand hygiene to routines during operations and the use of urinary catheters.

Making which matters worse, the most vulnerable are patients in intensive care and geriatrics, with the highest occurrence of healthcare-associated infections.

Turning Up the Heat on Antibiotics Usage

The survey also revealed that 36% of patients in hospitals are treated with antibiotics. Half of these were broad-spectrum antibiotics, which act against many different types of bacteria. While helpful, these can also increase the risk of antibiotic resistance.

Stenmark reiterated the need for improving the usage of antibiotics, underlining:

“Antibiotics are among the most important medicines we have and absolutely necessary in many cases. However, doctors need to improve the optimization of antibiotic use. It should be the right antibiotic at the right time, neither too much nor too little.”

Battle on the Ground

The survey was conducted at 54 Swedish emergency hospitals in all 21 regions during the period April to May this year.

Going by the findings, Swedish hospitals are grappling with a high occupancy rate, with close to 60% having an occupancy rate of over 90%. What’s even alarming is that 13 hospitals had an occupancy rate of over 100%.

The report also pointed out that some hospitals fail to meet WHO’s recommendations for staffing resources required for maintaining good healthcare hygiene.

The Bottom Line

The battle against healthcare-related infections is far from over. It’s a wake-up call for health authorities to prioritize hygiene and optimize the use of antibiotics. Our Swedish healthcare can do better, and it must—for the wellbeing of every patient entering a hospital. However, for expats and locals alike, let’s not lose sight of the silver lining—that much of these can be prevented with stronger oversight and stringent practices. And hey, isn’t that a ray of hope to cling onto?

The measurements were taken during 2022-2023 in Europe on behalf of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
In Sweden, all regions participated during spring 2023 with a total of 54 emergency hospitals (including all university hospitals) and 13,588 patients.

Source: Public Health Agency

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