The unfortunate risk of hospital infections

It’s becoming more and more common for people to harbor fears of infection when they need to be hospitalized for other medical problems. The media is full of stories about the risk that hospital patients take just by being admitted. Patients contract dangerous “superbugs” resistant to antibiotics and other medications.

The HAI

Officially called “healthcare-associated infections” or HAIs by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, hospital infections can have very serious effects. They can even cause death, especially among the elderly and other patients with weak immune systems.

Also problematic are antibiotics used to kill “bad germs.” While absolutely necessary for treatment of many serious conditions, antibiotics can sometimes also kill “good germs” in the body. This makes patients using antibiotics more susceptible to HAIs, especially Clostridium difficile, an infection that can cause inflamed colon, diarrhea, fever, pain and more.

Amazingly, the CDC reports that about one in 20 hospital patients will get an HAI. Federal and state governments have increasingly beefed up HAI reporting systems for medical facilities in an attempt to learn more about how to prevent and control the infections.

Problems within hospital settings

Common methods, types and sites of HAI transmission include:

  • Catheters.
  • Ventilators.
  • IV lines.
  • Surgical sites.
  • Health care workers with poor hand-sanitation practices.
  • Contaminated surfaces.

Medical facility duties

A hospital has the legal duty to follow reasonable procedures and practices to reduce the chances of dangerous infection to its patients. These include adequate staffing and proper patient monitoring. When a hospital breaches its duty to reduce the risk to patients of infections that can be prevented, the facility is medically negligent, which can result in legal liability for damages to patients who suffer harm.

Seek legal advice

Anyone harmed by an HAI or who has lost a loved one to a fatal HAI should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can undertake a review of medical records and launch an investigation of the hospital’s disinfection, sanitation and prevention practices to learn if the facility was in compliance with standard practices in the industry. A medical malpractice lawyer will enlist experts in the field to assess the particular situation and help determine whether medical malpractice or mistakes occurred.

Legal counsel can advise HAI victims or their families of potential legal remedies like lawsuits for damages such as pain and suffering, medical expenses, loss of wages and more.