For a variety of reasons, hospitals are dangerous places. Many people are affected by hospital-acquired infections, and to the extent that they are avoidable, negligence may be involved. Hospital acquired infections are infections that occur after 48 hours after admission and have nothing to do with the patient’s diagnosis or health condition.
The Center for Disease Control found that 100,000 patients died of hospital acquired infections in 2002. This number is likely to underrepresent the number of people affected. 2 million people become ill as a result of hospital -acquired infections annually. In March of this year, the CDC reported that hospital acquired infection rates were declining, but over 200 Americans continue to die daily as a result of hospital-acquired infection. Staff members who failed to observe sanitary hand hygiene passed many of these infections from patient to patient.
Until 2004, hospitals were not required to inform the public of spread of infection. Since that time, many states have required hospitals to report their infection rates to the public. As the public has become aware of this tremendous problem, they have also become aware of methods utilized to prevent transmission of infection. Most hospital-acquired infections are preventable. Measures as simple as hand washing can prevent the majority of these infections, but simple measures are, unfortunately, frequently ignored.
In the case of hand washing, the hospital that does not enforce firm infection control policies may be liable and may be found negligent. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine found that, in 2011, after obtaining data from 183 American hospitals, pneumonia and surgical site infections were the most prevalent hospital infections, accounting for 22 percent, with infections of the bloodstream comprising 11 percent.
Typical pathogens include clostridum difficile, an enteric or GI pathogen that can cause a continuum of disease from diarrhea to toxic megacolon to death. Particularly toxic strains of the bacteria have surfaced at a number of hospitals, demonstrating the hospital-based transmission of this particular toxigenic strain of a fairly ubiquitous bacterium. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a typical causative agent of ventilator- acquired pneumonia.
Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aurous infections (MRSA) are difficult to treat with common antibiotics, and this infection can be deadly. Many hospitals screen patients for this resistant bacterium, in order to avoid spread throughout the facility. Patients with MRSA may be placed in isolation and visitors limited. The path of this resistant and difficult to treat bacteria has been a slow transmission from patient to patient and facility to facility. Poor hand-washing hygiene has contributed to the spread of this organism.
Hospital acquired infections have become so common that they generate direct medical costs of 30 billion dollar per year. In order for patients to recover damages for hospital-acquired infections, the patient normally must show negligence resulting in the infection and negligence in the diagnosis and treatment.
It has become easier to link a particular bacterial infection to a facility by sequencing the genome of the organism. However, because hospitals are still permitted to some extent to withhold information discussed in meetings of the infection control committee, it may initially be difficult to link a hospital-acquired infection to negligence at a particular facility.
Some risk factors for acquisition of an infection in the hospital include length of stay, severity of illness and immune system function of the patient; cleanliness of the hospital, including the surfaces and water cleanliness; and the use of antibiotics and the care taken by staff with invasive procedures as well as with hand washing.
If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of a hospital acquired infection, you should consider contacting one of our top-rated Chicago malpractice attorneys for a review of your case. Call us at 312-527-4500 for a Free Consultation.