Failure to Prevent Infections at Hospitals

Patients have a right to expect hospitals will provide a safe and sterile environment.  The reality is somewhat different. Patients often go into hospitals in Virginia and elsewhere for the treatment of one condition and pick up another while they are in the hospital. Infections acquired at medical facilities can be life-threatening. The failure to prevent infections in hospitals can lead to lawsuits.

About 14,000 Americans pick up infections at hospitals in any given year. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one in 20 patients will contract a hospital-associated or hospital-acquired infection (HAI) every day. Some estimates suggest the economic burden of HAIs is as high as $35.7 billion a year.

Tragically, some Americans who pick up a hospital-acquired infection never recover.

How Many People Die From Hospital-Acquired Infections?

In 2014, The New England Journal of Medicine published the HAI Prevalence Survey. It outlined the burden of HAIs on American hospitals. It reported an estimated 722,000 HAIs were found in U.S. acute care hospitals in 2011.  About 75,000 patients who were diagnosed with HAIs died during their hospitalizations. More than half of all hospital infections occurred outside of the intensive care unit.

The survey of 183 hospitals and 11,282 patients, found 452 patients had one or more healthcare-acquired infections. The 10 most common infections are listed below as follows:

What Are the Most Common Infections at Hospitals?

  1. Pneumonia comprised 21.8 percent of all healthcare-acquired infections;
  2. Surgical-site infection: 21.8 percent;
  3. Gastrointestinal infections: 17.1 percent;
  4. Infections of the urinary tract: 12.9 percent;
  5. Primary bloodstream infections: 9.9 percent;
  6. Eye, nose, ear, throat or mouth infections: 5.6 percent;
  7. Lower respiratory tract infections: 4 percent;
  8. Infections of the skin and soft-tissue: 3.2 percent
  9. Cardiovascular system infection: 1.2 percent
  10. Bone and joint infection: 1 percent.

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Infections at Hospitals in Virginia – The Most Common Culprit

The most commonly reported pathogen related to hospital associated infections is called Clostridium difficile. This pathogen is linked to 12.1 percent of healthcare-associated infections.

More than a quarter of all infections recorded in a recent survey were caused by the use of a particular device such as a central-catheter-associated bloodstream infections or urinary tract infections, and ventilator-associated pneumonia.

Clostridium difficile is also known as C. diff. It’s a relatively recent strain that has grown more virulent and resistant to drugs used to fight it.

Alarmingly, a new strain of C. diff, called NAP1, appeared in hospitals in the mid-2000s. It is more resistant to treatment and is partly responsible for soaring infection rates in hospitals throughout the United States.

While under 100,000 hospital stays were associated with C. diff in 1993, the number climbed to 336,600 by 2009 according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. C. diff causes fever and life-threatening diarrhea.

Another deadly bacteria is MRSA (Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus). This ‘superbug’ causes more than 80,000 invasive infections and 11,000 deaths a year, according to CDC.

Sepsis After a Hospital-Acquired Infection

Sepsis is one of the most serious potential consequences of an HAI. This condition occurs when the patient’s body shuts down, injuring tissues and organs as a result of the infection.

This is a potentially fatal condition. Every second counts in terms of diagnosis and treatment. An estimated 28 to 50 percent of patients who are diagnosed with sepsis do not survive.

Although there are no simple diagnostic tests for sepsis, the onus is on medical staff to recognize the warning signs and symptoms in patients. A failure to recognize and respond to signs of sepsis may be considered medical malpractice.

Symptoms of sepsis include inflammation over the body. If the HAI goes undetected and untreated, there is a significant potential for serious injury and death to the patient.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits After Patient Infections in Hospitals

Hospitals, outpatient facilities, nursing homes, and other medical treatment centers owe a duty of care to their patients to provide a clean and infection-free environment.

Typically, when a patient contracts a hospital-acquired infection, the hospitals or medical staff have breached that duty of care. As a result, a prima facie negligence case may be made against the hospital.

Hospitals may be liable for infections by:

  1. Failing to create a sterile environment during operations
  2. Failing to clean instruments like catheters that cause bloodstream infections via the central line
  3. Allowing bacteria to gather on stethoscopes and doctor’s white coats. Doctors’ ties were found to be a major cause of infection
  4. Failing to diagnose patients with infections in a timely manner before they spread the infection

Hire an Experienced Virginia Medical Malpractice Lawyer over The Failure to Prevent Infections at Hospitals

Contracting an infection at a hospital can permanently damage your health or even kill you. If you have been injured due to the negligence of a hospital or another medical advisor or lost a loved one, you should hire an experienced Virginia medical malpractice lawyer. Call the Smith Law Center today at (757) 695-9425.


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