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German hospital hygiene concern

February 27, 2014

Around 40,000 patients die every year because of poor hygiene in German hospitals, according to a healthcare watchdog. The figure is twice as high as previously thought.

Krankenhaus Patientin Patienten Flur Gang Leipzig
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

One million patients contract infections due to unsanitary hospital conditions, the German Society for Hospital Hygiene (DGKH) told the Thursday edition of the Westdeutschen Allgemeinen Zeitung (WAZ) newspaper.

DGKH chairman Klaus-Dieter Zastrow said that half of the 40,000 annual fatalities due to infection are "glossed over by the hospital lobby," which uses figures that are "long outdated."

About half all the infections are preventable, DGKH said, but German hospitals do not employ proper hygiene practices. Zastrow called for more transparency on the issue, saying that if a hospital had an infection rate of 9 percent, that information should be available on the Internet. If that were the case, he added, a patient could say "I prefer not to go there."

The DGKH accused German hospitals of managing their cleanliness "like a slush fund: they collect money but provide no hygiene."

Industry lobby concern

The watchdog said hospital operators were "not thrilled" by a 2011 law calling for stricter hygiene regulations, and the industry lobby responded accordingly.

"The German Hospital Federation is deeply connected to the Federal Health Ministry," said Zastrow.

Both parties keep it a small issue in order to save money – "above all patient expenses, but also caregivers and doctors," he added.

Zastrow said hospitals must severely punish poor hygiene practices.

"If the head of a hospital knows that his chief surgeon isn't concerned with hygiene, he has to fire him," he said. "The law calls for that."

dr/hc (dpa, KNA)