Vision & Mission

Today’s multi-resistant pathogens, which were created through inadequate and extensive use of antibiotics, are much more dangerous than child bed fever back at Semmelweis’ time. The Semmelweis Foundation aims to contribute to the improvement of the level of hygiene in health care institutions and reduce infection rates in order to save lives

  • by connecting experts,
  • by increasing public awareness and
  • by creating political pressure through information and initiatives on various levels.

For us, sharing best practice and learning from each other are the most important elements of our activities. We want to encourage patients, health care professionals and political decision-makers to address the issue of hospital hygiene and infection prevention in order for the Semmelweis reflex not to happen again.

To achieve these goals, the Semmelweis Foundation organizes a biannual conference, which serves as a platform for stakeholders to exchange ideas and best practices. In addition to that, the Foundation’s website provides information on the topics of hospital hygiene, multi-resistant pathogens and antibiotic-resistance.

We are currently faced with more dangerous pathogens than in Semmelweis‘ time – this is due to inconsiderate use of antibiotics. In daily life, these multidrug-resistant bacteria do not constitute a major risk, while in hospitals and health care facilities they can endanger patients‘ lives. This is, why we encourage stakeholders to provide resources for hospital hygiene and to support all initiatives which aim to reduce antibiotic-resistance.

- Bernhard Küenburg, President of Semmelweis Foundation

At least 33,000 patients die each year in Europe alone! We need increased consiousness for hospital hygiene and want to create political awareness for this important topic. Nosocomial infections, caused by hospital pathogens, can be drastically reduced through professional hand hygiene. Hospital infections and their consequences can be prevented – let us do something against it! Clean your hands – Save lives!

- Didier Pittet, Honorary President of Semmelweis Foundation

Semmelweis

Physician Dr. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, (Hungarian: Semmelweis Ignác Fülöp) was born on 1 July 1818 in “Ofen” – (Buda) which is now known as Budapest. He died at the age of 47 on 13 August 1865 in Vienna in an insane asylum, into which he was lured and kept against his will.

When in 1846 he joined the first obstetrical clinic of the Vienna General Hospital, the leading hospital during the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, every 10th women died from child bed fever after delivering a baby – despite the increasing knowledge in medicine, in particular in pathology.  At times the maternal mortality rate reached 30 percent.

Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis identified missing hand disinfection of gynecologists and students after autopsy as cause for this terribly high infection rate. His publication (1861, The Etiology, Concept and Prophylaxis of Child Bed Fever) is considered one of the most important ones in the entire medicine up to this day. He was ignored by his colleagues who accused him of “betrayal of his own profession” and mobbed into insanity.

The term “Semmelweis-Reflex“ was created by Robert Anton Wilson and is named after Semmelweis. It describes the reflex-like rejection of new knowledge because it contradicts entrenched norms, beliefs and paradigms.

Today’s multi-resistant pathogens are much more dangerous than child bed fever back at Semmelweis’ time. In November 2018 the ECDC reported 33,000 deaths directly attributed to hospital infections with multi-resistant bacteria.

As a reference to Dr. Semmelweis we hold our CEE-wide conference on hospital hygiene and infection prevention biannually in Vienna and Budapest, alternatingly.

Semmelweis on his deathbed:

„When I look back upon the past, I can only dispel the sadness which falls upon me by gazing into that happy future when the infection will be banished … The conviction that such a time must inevitably sooner or later arrive will cheer my dying hour.”

- Ignaz Semmelweis

History

The Semmelweis Foundation (Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis Gesellschaft), an open, independent non-profit organization was established and registered in 2012 in Vienna, Austria, by a group of engaged private individuals. It operates across borders across the entire Central Eastern European region in order to increase awareness about hospital hygiene and infection prevention in the expert community but also in the public in close cooperation with the WHO.

The Foundation is named after the famous Hungarian physician Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, who recognized the lack of doctoral hand disinfection as the main reason for child bed fever. He successfully introduced hygiene protocols with chlorinated lime solution between the autopsy room and the obstetric wards. Through his famous study of 1847/48 (published in 1961) he became the forefather of hand disinfection, modern antisepsis and evidence-based medicine.

Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis Foundation

President: Dr. Bernhard Küenburg

ZVR-Zahl: 346129146
Börsegasse 7/4,
1010 Vienna
Austria

www.semmelweis.info