The risk of contracting an infection while you are hospitalized is indisputable: One in every 25 hospital patients in the United States contract an infection while they are there. This used to be accepted as a “given.” It seemed logical that – with so many illnesses and infectious agents gathered in one place, and patients’ systems already stressed by illness or injury – infection was an inevitable risk. This view is now changing, though, with compelling new evidence that shows a protocol of low-cost infection prevention measures can prevent nearly all hospital infections.
The assumed inevitability of hospital infection has shielded hospitals and physicians from liability in the past. With the new evidence of preventability – and the rising number of dangerous drug-resistant bacteria – victims of such infections can often pursue a medical malpractice case based on negligence. As the pool of knowledge concerning infection prevention in hospital settings grows, it has become an expectation that medical institutions will strictly adhere to more aggressive prevention protocols – and they can be held liable for damages that result from failing to do so.
There were 1.7 million known healthcare-related infections reported in 2013. The most common hospital infections are pneumonia and infection at the surgical site; these make up approximately 45% of all infections. Other infections that may be contracted are UTIs, blood infections, gastrointestinal infections, and bacterial skin infections such as MRSA. In normal, healthy adults, these infections can be dangerous – but in the already-stressed bodies of hospital patients, they are much deadlier. Of the approximately 155,000 patients who died after contracting in-hospital infections last year, it is approximated that nearly 100,000 of these deaths were caused in whole or in part by the infection, not the original health issue for which the patient was hospitalized.
The Center for Disease Control recently found that at least 50% of the infections that occur in U.S. hospitals today could be prevented by the one simple precaution of every caregiver cleaning his or her hands immediately before touching patients, every time. Hand hygiene rules should always be strictly enforced in hospital settings. Hospitals that fail to put these rules into place or aggressively enforce them may be deemed negligent if patients contract infections. Other infection prevention practices should be followed as well, such as administration of a prophylactic antibiotic within 60 minutes of any invasive surgical procedure; routine testing of incoming patients for MRSA bacteria; and thorough sanitizing of floors, furniture, and implements in hospital rooms.
A number of European countries including Holland, Denmark, and Finland have implemented precautions to eradicate drug-resistant infections in hospital settings – and have been remarkably successful. The more such a proactive approach is proven to work, the easier it will be for those affected by hospital infections to receive compensation for their extra medical bills, loss of income, and pain and suffering. If it can be shown that a hospital failed to enforce hygiene practices and other prevention procedures, that hospital can be deemed negligent and held liable for infections contracted there.
If you or a loved one have contracted an infection while being treated and feel it may have been due to the negligence of the hospital, contact the Broward accident attorneys of Madalon Law. It cost you nothing and one of our injury attorneys will gladly explain the law and go over your options with you. Our offices are located in Fort Lauderdale and we fight for the rights of the injured throughout the State of Florida.