With everything Covid-Covid-Covid, medical professionals and the healthcare system have been ignoring good medicine and medical practices. Hospital policies enacted in response to Covid-19 scares have resulted in inexcusable surges of deadly and preventable hospital-caused infections.
Every patient entering the hospital to receive medical care for anything at all, and anyone entering a clinic with respiratory symptoms, was forced to undergo a Covid-19 PCR test – something that’s never been done in past viral outbreaks. These PCR tests are still not FDA-approved and are being used under “Emergency Use Authorization” issued more than a year and a half ago, and don’t differentiate Covid-19 from seasonal influenza infections. Virtually every respiratory infection, including pneumonia, tests positive for a viral component, hence more Covid-19 cases.
Yet Covid-19 has been treated differently than past respiratory influenza and cold viruses.
Doctors failed to prescribe appropriate antibiotics for the bacterial secondary infections that are what kill patients with pneumonia. They failed to prescribe antibiotics for outpatients patients and often ignored or failed to examine patients for symptoms that would normally be treated with antibiotics or prescribed prophylactic antibiotics. Fear of spreading Covid-19 was used as an excuse even among critically ill patients, for example, to not perform bronchoscopic cultures to identify pathogens and not perform other diagnostic procedures to look for other causes for respiratory symptoms (such pulmonary embolism or congestive heart failure) that would normally have been done.
A study just published on August 25, 2021 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine addressed some of these concerns. Doctors at the University of Pittsburgh performed bronchoscopy tests on all ventilated Covid-19 patients in the ICU and found that shortly after admission, 21% of all patients put on a ventilator had community-acquired bacterial superinfections that were responsive to antibiotics, including Streptococcus and methicillin-sensitive Staph aureus. Bacterial superinfections increased to 44% of patients 48 hours or more later.
This study was done before current immunosuppressive therapies, leading the doctors to say that secondary infections may be higher now.
Covid-19 fears were used to eliminate the ability of many people, especially minorities, the poor and elderly, to see their doctor or a medical provider. Instead, Medicare pushed and paid for zoom and telehealth provided by any number of healthcare providers, with no audits by Medicare during the “public health emergency” and no evidence that virtual care was better than hands-on medicine.
Covid-19 hospital policies and legislation eliminated the usual licensing and training requirements for medical staff, supposedly necessary to increase staffing needed for the pandemic, resulting in more undertrained and foreign nurses and nonmedical professionals doing direct patient care. State politicians across the country eliminated licensure requirements for health practitioners, waiving licensing exam requirements for students close to graduation and allowing them practice, waiving and lowering clinical hours required in nursing education programs, waiving requirements for doctors’ supervision of nurse practitioners, removing continuing education and other requirements for license renewal, permitting retired nurses with inactive licenses to practice, waiving background check requirements and other requirements for professionals coming in from outside, expanding roles of interns and unlicensed medical aids, and offering easy restricted licenses to use more foreign-trained and retired doctors.
Covid-19 hospital policies prohibited family and visitors, eliminating invaluable assistance in patient care and essential eyes and ears in preventing medical errors and patient neglect.
With Covid-19 hysteria, PPE (masks, gloves, gowns) was over-used and improperly used, leading to well-recognized risks of increasing the spread of infections. (It’s not uncommon for poorly educated or trained personnel to believe, for example, that gloves are protective and to not wash your hands as often, resulting in increased spread of germs, or to wear masks inappropriately and for too long, resulting in increased spread of germs.) Little squirts of alcohol hand sanitizer do not substitute for good handwashing, but are everywhere, while sinks sit idle.
With the focus on Covid-19, conventional infection control and prevention practices were thrown out the window. The results of all of these Covid-19 policies should have been anticipated.
A very disturbing study was just published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology from the National Healthcare Safety Network (CDC) — the largest Hospital-Acquired Infection surveillance system in the country. It found huge increases in hospital-caused infections in patients last year.
- Central line-associated bloodstream infections: 47 percent increase
- Ventilator-associated events: 44.8 percent increase
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA): 33.8 percent increase
- Catheter-associated urinary tract infections: 18.8 percent increase
Without getting into the minutia, in a single year, these increases wiped out nearly a decade of improvements in reducing hospital-acquired infections.
The researchers found a marked decline in antibiotic prescribing. The huge increase in hospital-acquired MRSA infections, for example, was investigated and found related to central lines and other devices improperly inserted and maintained. More than a quarter of all Covid-19 patients had Staph aureas infections, and more than half were MRSA.
The researchers did not report how many patients died from these largely preventable hospital-acquired infections. But they did conclude: “These data highlight the need to return to conventional infection prevention and control practices…”
As any medical professional knows, hospitals are always busier during the cold and flu season. But despite the Covid-19 marketing hype, hospitals were not appreciably busier last year than in past years. These appalling findings cannot be blamed on a coronavirus itself, but in the irresponsible reactions of medical professionals and hospitals.
There is no excuse for medical professionals to neglect their training and sound science, or their medical ethics, and turn the practice of medicine into theater to advance a political or marketing agenda.
Sandy Szwarc is a registered nurse.
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