PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Hospitals are supposed to be places where patients get better -- not pick up new infections.
But when Kellie Pearson had heart surgery in April, the surgery went well, but during recovery she caught C-Diff, a serious bacterial infection.
"It was incredibly painful. The second day I told my husband, I think I'm going to die," said Pearson.
Every year, about 648,000 hospital patients develop infections in hospitals -- like C-Diff, or MRSA, or surgical site or catheter infection, says Consumer Reports in a just-released study evaluating over 1,000 hospitals.
"You're in an environment where your immune system is reduced," Jane Montgomery of the Healthcare Council of Western Pennsylvania told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.
"There's organisms everywhere, and when you're confined and in a more susceptible situation, you can get infections."
Montgomery works with quality control officials at local hospitals.
"Hospitals take it very seriously," she says.
That is why frequent hand washing is required and sanitizer dispensers are everywhere, but that's not all.
"An isolation gown, gloves, sometimes a mask," notes Montgomery.
And even robots to disinfect patient rooms, but Consumer Reports found wide differences in infection rates among local hospitals.
Turns out that when it comes to fighting infections in the hospital, the best defense is an offense, and that means that you as a patient should be advocating for yourself or a loved one.
"The empowered, engaged patient is the best manner and the best approach to help people when they are in the hospital to stay as safe as possible," says Tami Minnier, R.N., UPMC's chief quality officer.
Minnier says patients and their families must speak up and question everyone not taking proper precautions.
"That's hard. Health care has that uneven playing field sometimes, but we encourage it," she said.
And it may work.
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