Silence can be the best communicator. Last week I was invited to a very private public event. Private because the participants were expressing their personal grief remembering family members they had lost to healthcare associated infections like MRSA. Public because it was an open air service held at the memorial to innocent victims at Westminster Abbey, in full view of bustling London.
It was a poignant and moving reminder that once a victim becomes an infection statistic there are people left behind to mourn. In Britain alone, thousands of bereaved families are created every year. There are times to shout in outrage at such wastage. To me this was a time to remember how the words SILENT and LISTEN share the same letters. It was a day to listen and appreciate what these families had to share.
The memorial service was followed by several excellent presentations and discussion. This was the first time I’d met most of the people present and it was my time to be silent and listen. What I experienced excited me. There was the expected sadness and a hint of outrage because they had personal experience of death from needless and avoidable infections. However the main sentiment was a question: What can they do to help others?
Nobody wants people to die from needless hospital infections; not the patients, nor the healthcare workers or hospital management, certainly not the families and nor does the public. Since nobody wants these infections, does that mean we have a mass of humanity that positively wants to end the carnage? Sadly that’s going a bit far as the public are not that aware of how common these lethal infections are.
Raising public awareness is one of the main tasks of MRSA Action UK, the hosts of this annual event. Their level of dedication is humbling. They are lifting the profile and bringing together people who can help those who would otherwise be destined to lose their lives for no good reason.
The healthcare sector is beginning to claim they have the situation under control citing a significant drop in the number of MRSA infections. They point out that in Britain there are now more infections due to MSSA than MRSA and suggest that is a good thing. Sadly, I regret to say the change of one letter has little relevance to a newly bereaved family. Their loved one is dead. That is final. That is what matters. And the death was needless. The infection did not need to happen.
These are not people who entered hospital with terminal cancer and were due to die anyway. They were not victims of horrific traffic accidents who couldn’t be saved. One man present had lost his father to infection after an operation on a toe!
What am I going to do about it? A great deal and I won’t be silent.
Dr Harley Farmer PhD BVSc(hons) BVBiol(path) MRCVS
CEO NewGenn, activist, campaigner, blogger, novelist, public speaker.