Hospital Infections Leading Cause of Death

Los Angeles Times Outbreaks

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times “OUTBREAKS SHROUDED IN SECRECY” addresses the spread of infections at hospitals and how investigations are confidential keeping other patients in the dark. Almost every week I get a call from a potential client about how they or loved got an infection following a surgery, procedure or hospital stay. I am asked “Do I have a claim for medical malpractice” or “Do I have a claim for medical negligence.”

The CDC healthcare-associated infection (HAI) prevalence study shows that an estimate of the overall problem of HAIs in hospitals in the United States. Hospitals in the study included private hospitals, hospitals such as those operated by organizations such as Kaiser Permanente, government run hospitals. Based on sampling a large number of acute care hospitals in the United States, the survey found that about 1 in 25 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection every day. The CDC estimates that there were 722,000 HAIs in hospitals in 2011. About 75,000 hospital patients with HAIs died during their hospitalizations. More than half of all HAIs occurred outside of the intensive care unit. We are talking hospitals here in the United States. 75,000 deaths a year is equal to over 205 deaths from hospital-acquired infections every day of the year.

According to the CDC the infections acquired by patients in hospitals are
Infection                                                                         Estimated Nos. Per Year
Pneumonia                                                                     157,500
Gastrointestinal Illness                                                123,100
Urinary Tract Infections                                                93,300
Primary Bloodstream Infections                                  71,900
Surgical site infections                                                  157,500
Other types of infections                                               118,500

Other infectious diseases can also easily spread in medical settings, where those who are actively ill mingle with others who have compromised immune systems.

The organization known as the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), estimates that, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, (MRSA) kills more Americans each year than the combined total of emphysema, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and homicide. MRSA is generally a hospital acquired infection.

The CDC estimates that about 331/3 % of nosocomial (hospital acquired) infections are considered preventable. The most common nosocomial infections are pneumonia, gastrointestinal, urinary tract and surgical sites.

If you get an infection following a surgery, procedure or hospital stay does than mean you have case? The answer is maybe.

Medical findings show that almost all surgery, procedure and hospital infections are preventable if healthcare providers are correctly trained in and follow sterile procedures. However, the fact is that
“Despite the overwhelmingly large number of people who die of hospital-acquired infections each year, there are virtually no instances of successful litigation against doctors or hospitals.” Pamela Nolan, Unclean Hands: Holding Hospitals Responsible for Hospital-Acquired Infections, 34 Colum. J.L. & Soc. Probs. 133, 136 (2000).

In my experience in nosocomial (hospital/healthcare acquired infection) cases, the most success is achieved in situations that there were was a failure to properly diagnose and treat the infection, rather than causing the infection in the first place.

There of course issues related to whether prophylactic (pre-surgery) antibiotics should have been given. Whether post surgery antibiotics should have been given. Whether the patient was properly prepared for the procedure (injection, surgery, etc. . . . ). Whether the patient had a particular susceptibility for infection. Whether there was breach of sterile protocol.

In any claim involving infectious disease issues there are many issues the needs to looked into.

Retaining An Attorney

Nevertheless, despite the challenges infectious diseases case present, your or your loved ones claim should be looked into. You should contact a qualified medical malpractice lawyer immediately to learn your legal rights. However, understand the challenges that an infectious disease claim presents. Most medical malpractice attorneys offer at least an initial free consultation. Avail yourself of this valuable service. If you wish, please give me, Richard M. Katz, a call. Our office is ready to help you. Please call 626-796-6333.

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