How Many Must Die before We Take Things Seriously?

In 2002, it was reported that almost 100,000 Americans die every year from health care associated infections. “The estimated deaths associated with HAIs in U.S. hospitals were 98,987: of these, 35,967 were for pneumonia, 30,665 for bloodstream infections, 13,088 for urinary tract infections, 8,205 for surgical site infections, and 11,062 for infections of other sites.” (Public Health Rep. 2007 Mar-Apr;122(2):160-6.)

So is 100,000 deaths a big deal? Isn’t that just one of the risks of entering the health care environment? Let’s use the airline industry for comparison.

The Boeing 767 went into operation in 1980. Over 900 of them have been placed in service. There are a number of configurations that would allow them to seat between 181 to 375 passengers. Let’s assume though that they are designed for 274 to keep the math simple.

There have been only six notable events with these aircraft that have resulted in deaths. The only ones that occurred in the US were the two aircraft used in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11/01. These are very safe aircraft.

So how many of these planes would need to go down killing all aboard to match the death rates from health care associated infections in the US? 100,000 deaths could be achieved by one of these planes crashing every day. Are you shocked? Good.

Think of what would happen if a 767 crashed somewhere in the US three or four days in a row. How long do you think it would take for the entire fleet with every carrier to be grounded by the FAA? Days? Hours?

So why is it that we let the health care plane crash every day like this? Is there anything we can do to stop it? Why isn’t there a massive cry for reform? Why do providers seem to think the problem belongs to someone else?

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