We go to the hospital expecting to have our injuries treated and our ailments cured. No one admits him or herself to the hospital or is taken to the hospital by others with the expectation that that person will become more ill. Yet this very scenario takes place numerous times each year at hospitals throughout the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintain the following statistics regarding these “healthcare associated infections” (HAI):
- In 2011, there were approximately 720,000 cases of healthcare associated infections in the United States;
- That same year, the most commonly acquired infection in a healthcare setting (such as in a hospital) was pneumonia;
- Statistics suggest that the incidence rate of healthcare associated infections is decreasing overall, albeit some infections and diseases are decreasing at a more rapid rate than others.
The CDC also suggests that following a few simple precautions could prevent a significant number of healthcare associated infections. Medical professionals, hospital administrators, and others may be held financially responsible to a patient who becomes ill as the result of a healthcare associated infection if it is determined reasonable care was not rendered to the patient and reasonable precautions were not taken to prevent a healthcare associated infection.
Most Common Types of Hospital Infections
Some may be surprised to learn that hospitals and other healthcare facilities can be breeding grounds for bacteria and other germs. Considering the number of ill people who are in any hospital at any given time, however, it makes sense to conclude that hospital patients are at risk of catching one or more of the following common illnesses:
- Gastrointestinal illnesses;
- Urinary tract infections;
- Primary bloodstream infections;
- Surgical site infections.
The vast majority of cases of healthcare associated infections occur because one or more individuals associated with the hospital – doctors, nurses, maintenance, administrators, and (in some cases) other patients – behave in a reckless or careless manner. This not only causes other patients to risk infection, but it can prolong those other patients’ hospital stays and (in some extreme cases) lead to serious injury or death.
Causes of Hospital Infections
Because hospitals treat individuals with contagious diseases, there is always a risk that other patients can become infected if proper precautions are not taken. For example, air ventilation shafts that connect the room of a patient with a contagious infection with other parts of the hospital can be a perfect conduit for the patient’s disease to spread to others. Even if a patient is not around another patient who has a contagious infection, germs and bacteria can still find surfaces on which to breed and spread. Healthcare associated infections can spread through:
- Close proximity to patients who have contagious diseases. Instead, these patients should be segregated from other patients as much as possible to reduce the chances of the disease spreading.
- Failure of staff to wash their hands regularly. One might think that doctors and nurses know the importance of hand washing and do so religiously, but this is not so. Although medical professionals do know the importance of hand washing, it is common for them to neglect to do so – especially if they are in a hurry.
- Failing to properly cook food can lead to food poisoning, some of which can be severe.
- Failing to properly sterilize the operating room, surgical site, and surgical tools before surgery.
Some of the infections that can set in inside the walls of a hospital are serious and must be diagnosed and treated appropriately as soon as possible. The longer a healthcare associated infection goes undiagnosed, the greater the risk to the health and life of the patient.
Who is Responsible for Hospital Infections?
Determining the cause or causes of your hospital infection is no small feat: Because of the invisible nature of bacteria and viruses and the speed with which they travel, it can be difficult to determine where the virus or bacteria originated, how it traveled to you, and who was responsible for contributing to the disease’s spread (this, of course, after determining what disease you contracted). Because many hospitals have protocols that are redundant (i.e., more than one person may be responsible for ensuring medical instruments are properly sanitized), there are often multiple parties responsible for a healthcare associated infection. Identifying each of these parties is essential to obtaining just compensation for the injured patient.
Call Stern Law, PLLC for Experienced Legal Counsel
If your contracted an illness while in the hospital, you may be able to pursue compensation for your additional medical costs as well as lost time from work, pain and suffering, and other losses and expenses. Call Stern Law, PLLC at (800) 462-5772 and speak with our dedicated team of attorneys and support staff. We will help you understand and assert your legal rights and hold those responsible for your hospital infection responsible for their careless acts.