Sunday, June 17, 2012

Singapore - Hospital infections add up to higher costs for patients

UP to one in seven hospital patients in Singapore picks up an infection on the ward, doctors say. The bugs leave them needing extra treatment or longer stays, and sometimes even prove fatal.

They also hurt patients financially. About half of those with severe infections catch “antimicrobial-resistant” strains that have the power to resist multiple drugs, a recently published study shows.

It means they could end up paying around S$150 (RM373) to S$200 (RM497) a day for medication, or thousands of dollars more for their treatment.

“Antimicrobial infections are becoming ever more important,” said the study’s principal author Dr Hsu Li Yang.

His research quoted international figures showing that between 5% and 15% of hospital patients catch infections during their stay. According to the World Health Organisation, those in South-East Asia are at the upper end of the range.

Dr Hsu’s study was carried out at the Singa-pore General Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hos­pital. It found 675 patients with blood infected by hospital-acquired bugs between January 2007 and July 2009. One in six of them died.

Patients who caught the drug-resistant infections were no more likely to die than those with the other types. However, they ended up staying in hospital for about six days longer and paid far more for their treatment.

Their median bill was S$8,639 (RM21,490) higher than if they had been infected by a normal bug.

In some cases, they might need to be on antibiotics for as long as six weeks, said Dr Hsu, who is director of the Centre for Infec­tious Disease Epidemiology and Research at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

By contrast, those who catch non-drug-resistant infections face a lighter financial burden, with medication costing around S$10 (RM25) to S$15 (RM37) a day.

The study looked only at gram-negative bacteria, which account for more than two-thirds of hospital-acquired infections.

Some of its results were published last month in the journal of the Singapore Acade­my of Medicine.

The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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