In Sweden alone, 1,400 people die each year from healthcare-associated infections (the equivalent of eight fully-booked Boeing 737s).
It shouldn't have to look like that, with the right healthcare mattresses and good hygiene practices, that figure can be improved. A good quality healthcare mattress helps to both provide a good level of hygiene and detect any contamination in time.
The danger of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs)
First of all, you should be clear about what is meant by a healthcare-associated infection.
So this is not about the deaths that healthcare fails to prevent, but about the deaths that the healthcare system actively causes through infections that affect the patient during hospitalisation. More than 100 000 Swedes fall ill every year, but the problem is by no means limited to Sweden. EU statistics show that 4.1 million people are affected and 147,000 die each year .
Of the 1,400 VRI-related deaths in Sweden, it is estimated that up to 30%, or 450 lives, could have been saved by changing hygiene practices alone. This compares to the 192 people who died on Swedish roads in 2021.
The shortcomings in healthcare hygiene thus claim more Swedish lives than road accidents.
The role of antibiotics
Over the past century, we have relied on antibiotics to fight infections, but bacteria have fought back by developing multi-resistance, and this problem is most acute in hospital settings.
This makes good hygiene on the premises even more important, an area that is often neglected at present. Not only are the necessary procedures lacking, but also knowledge about how bacteria take hold, thrive and spread. Often the focus is on hand hygiene, but other routes of infection that are just as important to address are unfortunately often overlooked.
Instead of focusing on antibiotics as a solution to the VRI problem, it is better to ensure that healthcare associated infections do not occur.
The Breakthrough Effect - A Trojan Horse
In healthcare, mattress covers with polyurethane surfaces are often used to keep blood, urine and other bodily fluids off pillows and mattresses, but polyurethane has its limitations.
- The combination of body fluids and fats can cause hydrolysis, a chemical process in which the molecules split. The coating is destroyed and begins to let fluid through.
- The protective layer is also vulnerable to cleaning fluids such as chlorine and window cleaner - a single wash can permanently destroy the protective layer.
- Polyurethane also does not prevent liquid from entering through seams, zippers or damaged parts of the surface layer
All these processes lead to bacteria, like the Greeks at the siege of Troy, getting past a supposedly impenetrable defence unnoticed. This phenomenon is known as "strikethrough" and risks serious consequences if the bacterial host remains undetected.
Images from mattress inventory at Swedish hospital, conducted in 2021.
Järven Health Care has developed a unique laminate that we call LENTEX.
Find out how LENTEX can help reduce healthcare associated infections.