CINCINNATI -- Hundreds of worries populate the mind of anyone who finds themselves checked into a hospital, no matter how minor their illness or how decorated the staff, but the cleanliness of their mattress is not usually among them. It’s such a small thing -- and why, in the florescent-lit land of sterilized surgical tools and swap-out plastic gloves, would a hospital mattress be anything other than clean?
As it turns out, maybe you should worry.
According to Dr. Edmond Hooker, professor of health services administration at Xavier University, most hospitals don’t clean their mattresses thoroughly enough to prevent patients from possibly becoming sick while they mean to get well.
"Multiple studies show that if you go to a bed where the last patient had MRSA or clostridium difficile, you have about three times the chance of getting MRSA or C. diff," he said.
Clostridium difficile is a bacterium that targets the colon, causing everything from cramps to kidney failure; MRSA is a drug-resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus. Other common hospital-acquired illnesses include Legionnaires’ disease, E. Coli and even pneumonia; altogether, these ailments cause tens of thousands of deaths each year.
The Trinity Guardion, which Hooker helped invent, is a zippable, reusable mattress cover that helps hospitals by being easy to wash in bacteria-killing chemicals and temperatures, unlike an entire mattress. Hooker said he had brought the covers to seven different healthcare facilities, all of which had seen huge reductions in -- some even total elimination of -- hospital-acquired illnesses.
"By taking this off and putting it in a washing machine, I can put chlorine in, which kills C. diff and all the bad bacteria," he said. "As opposed to the current process in all hospitals, which is to wipe the mattress with a chemical disinfectant."
The covers don’t run cheap -- about $400 a pop -- but Hooker said he believed reducing hospital-acquired infections over long periods of time was worth the cost.
"Hospitals are working really hard trying to fix this problem," he said. "But we have just come on the market with a solution they can use."