The lack of infection control at hospitals and other medical centers may cause patients to sustain catastrophic injury or death. Today, our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers examine infection control in a particular setting: ambulatory surgical centers.
Many of the surgeries in the United States are performed in ambulatory surgical centers – medical centers that specialize in elective, outpatient, or same-day surgeries. Yet shockingly, a new study from the Center for Disease Control published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that nearly 68% of these medical centers have lapses in infection control procedures.
Infection control procedures and protocols are some of the most basic requirements of the practice of medicine, and surgery in particular. The failure to follow even the simplest of these requirements is unacceptable, and should lead to not only government penalties, but civil actions for medical malpractice by the innocent victims of this negligence.
Ambulatory surgical centers have blossomed in the past decade. In 2007, over 6,000,000 surgeries were performed at these centers in the United States. And from 2001 to 2008, there was a 50% increase in the number of such centers certified by Medicare. In those same years, there was a corresponding increase in the number of hygiene and safety problems associated with the surgeries performed at these centers. It was this increase that led the CDC to begin a study directed at infection control practices.
The CDC study sampled ambulatory surgical centers in Maryland, Oklahoma, and North Carolina. The centers specialized in differing types of surgery, including everything from dental surgeries, endoscopy (procedures wherein a surgeon looks inside the body as a diagnostic tool), gynecology, ophthalmology (eye surgeries), orthopaedics (surgeries to treat musculoskeletal trauma, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, and other musculoskeletal problems), and otolaryngology (surgeries of the ear, nose, and throat), to pain management surgeries, plastic surgery, and podiatry. The CDC checked these centers for a variety of problems that can lead to infection, including improper hygiene methods, and the mishandling of everything from medications to surgical equipment.
The study found lapses at a shocking 46 out of 68 ambulatory surgical centers examined. Perhaps even more shocking are the types of lapses identified by the study. Included were everything from sophisticated errors to things that a child could have corrected. While lapses in injection safety are themselves inexcusable, some ambulatory surgical centers in the study were found to have lapses as simple as the failure to practice proper hand hygiene. Indeed, 19.4% of the centers studied failed to use proper hand hygiene or to use protective gloves when called for. Likewise, 18.8% of ambulatory surgical centers failed to properly clean so-called “high-touch” surfaces in the areas used for patient care. These infection control procedures are the simplest, most essential elements of protecting the health of patients. The failure to follow them is almost certainly medical malpractice.
Equally shocking, the study found that 6% of the centers repackaged and reused devices that were originally packaged and and labeled as single-user items. And 32% of the centers which performed blood glucose testing did not clean and disinfect the glucose meter after each use, while 21% of ambulatory surgical centers used one lancing pentlet device (also used in blood glucose testing) for multiple patients. Other errors were also found at alarming rates. The study found that 28% of the centers took medications in single-patient vials and used them for multiple patients, instead.
These study results, and the medical failures they represent, are simply unacceptable. Our top Chicago medical malpractice lawyers know that infection after surgery is often a serious complication, and one that may be easily preventable by following simple protocols. In other instances, however, a serious or deadly infection may develop even under proper medical care. Which is why if you suspect a serious or deadly post-surgical infection was the result of medical negligence, you should contact one of our experienced medical malpractice attorneys to help you to investigate the underlying cause of your infection, and determine whether the negligence of your doctors or surgical center were to blame.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.