Every day in the United States, approximately 40,000 harmful hospital errors occur, many of which are preventable, and the result of staff negligence. Hospitals should be the safest place for sick or recovering patients, however many have become notorious for spreading deadly infections. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hospital-acquired infections affect one in 25 patients, and up to 30 percent of patients in an intensive care unit (ICU).
Particularly dangerous hospital-acquired infections like MRSA, C. Diff, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, and ventilator-associated pneumonia are very common, and may claim the lives of patients. In 2011, an estimated 205 Americans died from hospital-acquired infections each day.
Hospital-acquired infections are far too prevalent and not only a great burden to patients, but also the nation’s health care system. Changes must be made and hospitals and staff must be held accountable for the damage caused by poor procedure and hospital standards.
If you or a loved one has been injured, Joe Lyon is an experienced Cincinnati medical malpractice lawyer who handles cases based on a misdiagnosis of hospital acquired infection or delay in diagnosis of hospital acquired infection. The Lyon Firm can assist you and your family find the answers to the important questions that have gone unanswered.
It should be common sense that medical staff would always observe basic health hygiene and routinely wash their hands. However, hands are the most common vehicle for transmission of bacteria, and “horizontal transmission” of infections among hospital patients.
Hospital-acquired infections can be caused by viral, bacterial, or fungal pathogens. The most common infections are bloodstream infections (BSI), pneumonia (VAP), MRSA-Staph infections, urinary tract infections (UTI), C. Diff. infections and surgical site infections (SSI).
MRSA (Staph) is an infection caused by a type of Staphylococcus, a bacterium now resistant to a wide list of antibiotics. MRSA is highly associated with infections acquired exclusively in medical facilities like hospitals or nursing homes. Hospital-acquired MRSA infection is most commonly contracted through direct contact with contaminated hands, contaminated patient linens, and poorly sanitized surgical instruments. MRSA can cause severe problems, such as blood infections.
Surgical site infections account for about 15 percent of hospital-acquired infections, numbering up to 400,000 cases of infections per year in the U.S. The majority of surgical site infections result from microbes invading a surgical wound at the time of operation.
Most surgical site infections involve MRSA-type bacteria species. Contributing factors to an infection may involve improper hair removal, skin preparation, operating room sterility, antimicrobial choice, bowel preparation regimens, and operative technique. Any failure to follow safe hygienic procedure may result in a dangerous infection.
Many unsuspecting patients taking antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection end up with a more serious infection. In some hospital patients, antibiotics can trigger a potentially life-threatening infection caused by a type of bacteria called clostridium difficile (C. diff.)
C. diff. is estimated to cause almost half a million annual infections in the United States. The infection can cause many complications, including colitis, a serious inflammation of the colon. In many cases, victims have died within a month of initial diagnosis.
Catheter-associated UTIs are the most common hospital-acquired infections, and result in almost 450,000 cases per year in the United States. Patients admitted for longer hospital stays are at great risk, with the risk of infection increasing by about 5 percent each day a patient is fitted with a urinary catheter. Many UTIs originate from the hands of health care workers during placement or maintenance, infecting patients with various bacteria.
Careful catheter removal and change is necessary to prevent infection. Training staff is essential, and must be directed at sterile insertion technique and maintenance practices. Insertion should always include sterile gloves. About 25-75 percent of UTIs are estimated to be avoidable.
Protocols for removal are generally simple, though studies show fewer than 10 percent of hospitals use catheter removal reminders. Many institutions are also without a monitoring system for urinary catheter duration of use.
Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is a pneumonia caused by poor mechanical ventilation practice. VAP is estimated to cause complications in over 50,000 patients per year in the United States. Up to a quarter (25 percent) of mechanically ventilated patients develop VAP with aerobic gram-negative bacilli, accounting for the majority of infections. Fungi and Viruses have also been known to cause VAP in some patients.
Most alarmingly, these incidences of infection in medical facilities are increasing year-on-year. Complications of hospital-acquired pneumonia may include lung abscess and thoracic empyema, and in some cases require surgical intervention.
Several factors can lead to health care-associated infections, several of which are preventable if hospital management and medical staff take the proper precautions. Some common risks include the following:
• Prolonged use of invasive devices
• Prolonged use of antibiotics
• High-risk procedures
• Immuno-suppression and other unidentified underlying patient conditions
• Insufficient application of isolation precaution
• Misapplied hygienic procedures
• Poor application of basic infection control measures
• Ignoring procedure
• Absence of procedure and policy
• MRSA (staph)
• C. Diff.
• Surgical Site Infection (SSI)
• Hospital-acquired urinary tract infection (HAUTI)
• Ventilator-associated Pneumonia (VAP)
With a thorough investigation, and testimony from experienced medical experts, the Lyon Firm can determine if a patient’s damages are the result of medical malpractice, and the negligence of a hospital and its personnel. Liability needs to be established, and records may show an unacceptable standard of care. If it is determined that a hospital-acquired infection was preventable, and medical professionals were negligent, the victim will have a good chance to recover costs and damages in a claim.
Aside from the damages to victims and their families, hospital-acquired infections put a strain on the entire healthcare system and state budgets. The majority of these infections are preventable, and health care systems and individuals must be held accountable to make proper changes. Hospitals and other health care facilities are required to adhere to practices of sterility, but when medical staff fails to follow safe procedures, and fails to protect patients, they must be held responsible for their medical negligence.
If you or a loved one suffered from a hospital-acquired infection, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care, contact The Lyon Firm (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.