We might think of hospitals as clean, sterile environments, but it takes diligence to make them that way.
After all, hospitals are where we take our sick people, and sick people often carry germs and other pathogens that can spread from one patient to another.
That is why on June 1, Beaufort Memorial Hospital celebrated a significant milestone -- more than two years without an intensive-care patient contracting a bloodstream infection.
In January, the S.C. Hospital Association recognized the hospital for improvements it had made.
Hilton Head Hospital this year received a similar award from the association. The island hospital has gone nearly two years without an intensive-care patient contracting a bloodstream infection.
The accomplishments are a result of significant efforts.
In 2006, Beaufort Memorial created an infection-prevention team to reduce bloodstream infections stemming from "central lines" -- the intravenous catheters that deliver medication, nutrition and fluids to patients. Those changes came after infections increased in 2005 to 5.1 percent, higher than the national rate at the time of 1.9 percent, said Diane Razo, the hospital's director of critical care.
Infection rates at Beaufort Memorial began to drop in 2006, after the medical staff joined the national Institute for Healthcare Improvement to develop new procedures. Intensive care nurses stepped up infection-prevention methods for inserting catheters, and the hospital began to monitor efforts to help kill bacteria where the line is inserted into the body. Three years later, the hospital also joined a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine project that has helped stem infections.
As a result of these and other initiatives, Razo said, the hospital has not had a patient contract a bloodstream infection in its eight-bed intensive care unit since December 2008. She also said the hospital's zero-percent infection rate is well below the current national median of 2.9 percent.
Infection rates at Hilton Head Hospital began to drop in mid-2009, after the medical staff worked with Johns Hopkins to develop new procedures. Intensive care nurses began using infection-prevention methods for inserting catheters, and the hospital purchased new products to help kill bacteria where the line is inserted into the body.
Both hospitals' accomplishments merit the community's appreciation. They also help assure patients that when they are admitted to the hospitals, they are checking in to get better, not to fight complications.
Too much work goes into providing that assurance to take it for granted.