Hungary’s healthcare system is so underfunded that hospitals seem to be saving money on things like soap, to the detriment of its patients. According to a report issued this week by the National Medical Officers Authority (Országos Tisztiorvosi Hivatal), 691 people died in 2015 due to infections acquired in hospitals in 2015.
- Clostridium Difficile Infections (CDI) killed 213 people in new cases, and 18 people in returning cases
- bloodstream infections killed 293 people
- infections caused by multi-drug-resistant pathogens killed 167 people
The day after the report was released, the National Epidemiology Center issued a statement claiming the number of hospital infections had decreased by 5 percent since 2014. Although true in absolute terms, as a percentage of patients admitted to hospital, the rate of life-threatening bloodstream infections (0.8 percent) and infections caused by multi-drug-resistant pathogens (1.2 percent) has actually risen since 2014.
The centre’s response also contains some suspicious numbers, stating that 2.79 of every 1000 patients contracted a CDI in Hungarian hospitals in 2015 — well under the 21 of every 1000 admitted patients contracting a CDI in a study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in June 2015, based on 11,751 cases treated at a Budapest clinic between January 2010 and May 2013.)
The cause of such widespread infections in Hungary’s hospitals could be partially explained by further data contained in the report. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that hospitals should consume 20 liters of disinfectant hand soap per 1,000 care days. In Hungary’s chronic patient and rehabilitation wards, the median use of hand soap is a mere 2.1 liters/1,000 care days according to the report. Distributed across those care days, that means that an average of 2-4 milliliters of hand soap is being used per day in each of these wards, the amount the WHO recommends for a single hand washing.
Based on the data in the report, it can be said with reasonable confidence that more people died from infections acquired in hospitals last year than the 644 people who died in the same period in traffic accidents on Hungary’s roads. Many such infections could be prevented with simple hand washing, but Hungary’s healthcare system is so underfunded that hospitals seem to be cutting corners on things like soap to save money.