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Hospital-acquired infection increases patient stay, costs

02 August 2012

Research found that patients infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospitals had longer hospitalisation and higher expenses

Photo: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

A study by Singapore researchers found that patients infected by multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria in hospitals had prolonged hospitalisation and ran up higher financial costs. The work led by Dr Hsu Li Yang, Director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research at NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Policy, was published in Annals, Academy of Medicine Singapore earlier this year.

A total of 675 patients from the Singapore General Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital were found to have blood infections via hospital-acquired bugs between January 2007 and July 2009. Gram-negative bacteria accounted for two-thirds of the cases, and one out of six such patients died. Patients who caught the drug-resistant infections were no more likely to pass away than those with normal infections. However, the former prolonged their hospital stay for about six days more, with their median bill amounting to S$8,639 higher than normal patients.

Dr Hsu said that most infections occur when healthcare employees with poor hand hygiene pass on bacteria from patient to patient; in addition, visitors can also pass on bugs to patients. As such bacteria have a life span of a few days, it is important to conduct thorough cleaning to prevent infection to other patients.

Prevention is key, highlighted Dr Hsu. In fact, preventive measures can improve patient outcomes and healthcare delivery considerably.

Based on the results, the researchers urged for more active interventions to control microbial resistance as well as for possible benchmarks against which the cost-effectiveness of such interventions can be assessed.