Brilliant entrepreneur asks: “So why CAN’T you fix this?”

Constant readers, you’ll note that posting has slowed down a bit: I am deep into a chapter that is giving me some difficulty. (And I seem to be playing holiday host to an unexpected bout of bronchitis. I’m sure I didn’t need both lungs…)

But here’s something that crossed my monitor this morning, and it’s worth looking at. Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Air and many other extremely successful entrepreneurial efforts. has accepted a post as vice-president of the Patients Association, a nationwide nonprofit that advocates for hospital patients in the UK. Speaking up in his new position, Branson gave an interview to the BBC in which he talked about hospitals’ failure to curb MRSA:

It feels like they have tinkered with the problem rather than really got to the heart of the problem. The hospitals are there to cure people. They are not there to kill people.

It’s a marvelous interview — read the whole thing, it’s not long — because it’s such a breath of fresh air. Branson is an outsider to health care, but he knows how to make businesses work. And as the head of an airline, he’s extremely familiar with what we in the US call “never events”:

Sir Richard says the health service could learn a lot from the airline and rail industries on how to avoid mistakes.”In the airline industry if we had that kind of track record we would have been grounded years ago,” he said.”In the airline industry if there is an adverse event that information is sent out to every airline in the world. And every airline makes absolutely certain that that adverse event doesn’t happen twice.”

So his advice is brutally practical: Health care workers carry MRSA? Screen and swab them. Workers are positive for MRSA? Treat them, and take them out of direct patient contact for two weeks. That costs money? Spend the money: It’s less costly in the end than killing your patients.


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