Health care providers have a professional duty to patients to ensure they are treated in clean, safe environments. When this does not happen, patients may contract “nosocomial infections.”
Boston medical malpractice attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman know that more commonly, these are referred to as “hospital-acquired infections.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports about 2 million people suffer hospital-acquired infections each year, with about 90,000 of those resulting in death. An additional 1.5 million nursing home residents suffer a preventable infection during the course of their care. In fact, on any given day, 1 in 25 hospital patients suffer at least one healthcare-associated infection.
Of those that occur in hospitals, the most common types are:
- Surgical site infections from inpatient surgery
- Gastrointestinal illnesses
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Primary bloodstream infections
- Other types of infections
Nosocomial infections occur:
- In a health care facility where patient was admitted for reasons other than the infection.
- Up to 48 hours after hospital admission.
- Up to 3 days after discharge.
- Up to 30 days after a surgical operation.
The causes of these infections are pathogens spread easily through the body. Most hospital patients and nursing home residents have immune systems that are compromised, so they are less able to fight off dangerous infections. Some cases are caused by unsanitary conditions within a hospital or health care facility. In other cases, it’s the result of hospitals staffers failing to follow proper procedures.
Courts overseeing medical malpractice lawsuits stemming from these infections have ruled these kinds of illnesses are preventable, and that doctors, nurses, medical technicians, hospitals and nursing homes aren’t doing enough to stop them.Hospital-Acquired Infections in Massachusetts
A 2015 national report from the CDC revealed Massachusetts in particular has major room for improvement in this regard.
To offer some examples:
- Catheter-associated urinary tract infections – 58 percent higher rate than the national baseline
- Abdominal hysterectomy surgical site infection – 11 percent higher rate than the national baseline.
- Colon surgery surgical site infection – 22 percent higher than the national baseline.
- C. difficile infections – 1 percent higher than the national baseline.
There were, however, a couple areas where hospitals in the Commonwealth fared better than in other states. Those included:
- Central line-associated blood stream infections – 49 percent lower than the national baseline.
- MRSA Bacteremia – 40 percent lower than the national baseline.
Unfortunately, the federal report reveals these figures represent an increase from years’ past. For example, catheter-associated UTIs spiked by 9 percent in a single year. Abdominal site hysterectomy infections increased by 45 percent in that same time frame and colon surgery site infections increased by 49 percent.
This is all despite the fact that our health care providers know what causes these types of potentially lethal infections, and they know how to prevent them.
Massachusetts law does require such infections be reported to state health officials, who require:
- Proper hand hygiene of health care providers
- Antibiotic stewardship (promotion of appropriate use of antimicrobials to reduce microbial resistance and decrease infection risk)
- Personal influenza vaccination of healthcare workers
In Massachusetts in 2013, the Lowell Superior Court approved a $9.5 million settlement stemming from a hospital-acquired infection plaintiff suffered six years earlier while giving birth at Emerson Hospital in Concord. She lost all of her limbs after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria while hospitalized for a C-section.
Plaintiff sued the doctors and nurses in charge of her care, alleging they failed to monitor her health or provide adequate care after she gave birth.
Also in Massachusetts, another woman died after contracting a flesh-eating bacterial infection for cancer treatment. The case went to trial, and she was ultimately awarded $13.5 million.
That same year, a man in Missouri was awarded $2.9 million after suffering a hospital-acquired staph infection that resulted in the loss of a kidney, leg and foot. He had been in the hospital to receive a new pacemaker.
Despite these losses, health care providers continue to fail in prevention efforts.Proving Negligence
This does not mean all such cases are easy to prove.
Our legal team assembles facts of each case to determine whether there was negligence in causing the infection, as well as in diagnosing and treating it.
We have to show that the infection was not caused or associated with the condition that brought the patient to receive care in the first place. This often requires extensive research, as well as consultation with an experienced expert medical witness.
Our medical malpractice lawyers throughout Massachusetts are committed to fighting for the rights and well-being of those who have suffered unnecessarily due to hospital-acquired infections.
Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
Call (617) 367-2900 – NO FEE UNLESS SUCCESSFUL