Infections halved with private rooms

Infections halved with private rooms - Patients in intensive care staying in private - rooms have half the rate of some hospital-acquired infections as patients in - shared rooms, a new Montreal study shows.

Almost one in three patients in ICU pick up another bug in hospital, which means longer hospital stays, higher costs and for patients, a new bug to fight on top of the illness that put them in intensive care.
MRSA bacteria can cause deadly infections. There has been an increase in the number of cases of Canadians becoming infected or colonized by the superbug MRSA since 1995, but a new study shows keeping ICU patients in private rooms could help. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

Dana Teltsch, a PhD candidate in epidemiology at McGill University looked at 19,343 admissions over five years at the university's ICUs before and after one was renovated.

Teltsch focused on three antibiotic-resistant bacteria: MRSA, VRE and C. difficile.

Overall, the infection rate for patients cared for in private rooms was 54 per cent lower after multi-bed rooms were converted to private rooms, the researchers reported in Monday's issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

"An ICU environment with private rooms may facilitate better infection control practices, therefore reducing the transmission of infectious organisms," the study's authors concluded.

"Conversion to single rooms can substantially reduce the rate at which patients acquire infectious organisms while in the ICU."

The study is important for hospital designers and infection control specialists, said Dr. David Buckeridge, an epidemiologist at McGill.

Pluses of single room

The findings offer an important clue to unravel details about how people get infected in the first place and how to stop the chain of infection, Buckeridge said.

It's been a struggle to get the health-care system to recognize the value of single rooms, but the new findings should help, said Dr. Michael Gardam, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network.

Private rooms alone are not a magic bullet for stopping hospital infections, both Buckeridge and Gardam stressed in commenting on the paper.

"There's been other studies as well that have suggested that single rooms are a huge, huge plus to patient safety for a whole host of reasons," Gardam said. "Patients tend to do better in single rooms. They tend to sleep better; they have less noise. You don't have issues with patient confidentiality."

Other measures that help include:

  • Private washrooms.
  • Enhanced infection control and behaviour changes for hospital staff.
  • Improved, targeted screening of patients for infections.

The capital costs of building single-room hospitals are higher in the short term. But hospitals may last 40 years, and given the savings in terms of safety, the extra money of single rooms is typically recouped in a few years, Gardam said.

This study was funded in part by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. ( )

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