Prevent Bacterial Infections in Hospitals

Target: Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Dr. Karen Murphy

Goal: Create more thorough sanitation standards for Pennsylvania hospitals to prevent the spread of infections and disease.

Eight people became sick and four died from complications after possibly being unnecessarily exposed to the bacterial infection nontuberculous mycobacterium in a Pennsylvania hospital that performed 1,300 open-heart surgeries. Because the patients suffered from other underlying ailments, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was unable to wholly and officially blame the infection for these patients’ deaths, but the hospital has admitted that the infection was a contributing factor.

NTM, or nontuberculous mycobacterium, is a naturally occurring bacteria found in soil and water, and occasionally even tap water. People become infected by inhaling the bacteria, and while most people do not get sick, it can be incredibly detrimental to those with weakened immune systems. This results in a pulmonary illness that can take over a year of antibiotic treatment to cure.

A medical journal study found a risk of bacteria escaping the heater-cooler used during open heat surgeries. Tell the Pennsylvania Department of Health to enforce stricter sanitary regulations on state-licensed hospitals.


Dear Dr. Karen Murphy,

Recently a group of patients that underwent open-heart surgery at WellSpan York Hospital have passed due to medical complications related to the surgery. One of these complications was an unrelated infection that they contracted during surgery at the hospital believed to be spread by the heater-cooler used during the procedure.

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention was unable to state that these patients’ deaths were directly caused by their infection of nontuberculous mycobacterium, but the hospital has admitted that the infection was a contributing factor.

The hospital must contact all patients that had open-heart surgery at the hospital in the past four and a half years, over 1,300 people, in order to notify them of the possible infection and ensure that there were no further complications or concerns because of the illness. Only eight patients have been reported contracting the infection so far, and the infection only effects the carrier with a weakened immune system.

Unfortunately, this is common for people that have just undergone intensive medical procedures, such as open-heart surgery. Please increase the sanitary regulations for state hospitals to ensure that this spread of infection and disease does not happen again.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Mark Hillary

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