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Hospital-Acquired Infections

Patients who receive treatment at medical facilities such as hospitals, skilled nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, hospices and ambulatory surgical centers are often at risk for acquiring serious infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 20 hospital patients develop an infection during their hospital stay.  Hospital acquired infections or healthcare associated infections (also called HAIs) are unrelated to the actual reason a patient is in the hospital or medical facility.  HAIs often result from the carelessness and negligence of the hospital or medical provider.

Hospital Acquired Infections are Serious and Potentially Life Threatening

When a patient develops an infection during a hospital stay, the consequences can be fatal.  Life threatening complications can include the development of pneumonia, a weakened immune system, internal bleeding and bruising, permanent scarring or disfigurement, significant pain and even death.  The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council reported that approximately 2,500 individuals died from hospital acquired infections in 2005.  HAIs can damage organs in every body system.  Urinary tract infections affect the kidney, uterus, bladder and urethra of infected patients.  Both HIV/AIDS and the SARS viruses are associated with weakened immune systems.  Other diseases that may begin as a hospital acquired infection include hepatitis (types A, B and C) and tuberculosis.

Common Types of Hospital-Acquired Infections

Most hospital acquired infections can be classified as urinary tract infections, surgical site infections, gastrointestinal infections, blood stream infections or respiratory system infections. Some of the most serious and potentially life threatening hospital acquired infections involve the following virus and bacteria types:

  • Acineobacter
  • C. difficile
  • Clostridium Sordelli
  • E. Coli
  • Enterococcus
  • Klebsiella
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Mycobacterium absecessus
  • Norovirus
  • Pseudomonas

Causes of Hospital-Acquired Infections

Many factors can lead to the development of an infection during a hospital stay including the overuse of antibiotics and unhygienic hospital practices.

  • Overuse of antibiotics

When antibiotics are overprescribed, they begin to lose their effectiveness.  Weak antibiotics compromise a body’s ability to fight infections.  Overuse of antibiotics has been linked to infections involving Clostridium difficle (C. diff /CDI) and gastrointestinal colitis.

  • Unhygienic hospital practices/failure to maintain sterile hospital conditions

When hospitals fail take certain basic health precautions, the risk of acquiring an infection during a hospital stay dramatically increases.  Physicians, nurses and other staff who have contact with patients are often responsible for spreading germs which develop into infections.  Lack of adequate hand washing, failure to use gloves when examining patients and working while sick can all constitute negligence.

Other ways that hospitals can prevent the risk of infections are: the proper sterilization of medical instruments, use of antiseptics and the appropriate housing of patients (separating infected patients from non-infected patients).

Many HAIs occur when a patient is undergoing implantation of a hardware device such as a knee or hip replacement surgery.  When surgical rooms are not maintained in the proper sanitary conditions, the risk for infection is high.  Equipment that is not properly sterilized and the reuse of syringes and needles also heighten the risk for the development of a HAI during these types of procedures.

Potentially Responsible Parties

When a hospital infection occurs, there are many potentially responsible parties.  The carelessness of many individuals can result in a preventable hospital acquired infection.  Among the medical entities that may be liable for a hospital acquired infection are:

  • Ambulatory surgical centers
  • Hospitals
  • Medical technicians
  • Nurses
  • Other hospital staff
  • Other types of medical facilities
  • Pharmacists
  • Physicians
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Skilled nursing homes

The costs associated with HAIs are high.  When a patient develops a HAI it often results in additional days in the hospital.  Pennsylvania patients have spent over 400,000 additional days in the hospital as a result of HAIs at a cost of approximately $1 billion.

New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP Assist Individuals Suffering from Hospital-Acquired Infections

If you or your loved one has acquired an infection during a hospital stay, compensation may be available for past and future medical treatment costs, lost wages, rehabilitation costs and payments for loss of consortium and pain and suffering.  New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP serve individuals throughout New Jersey with offices conveniently located in Edison, Red Bank and Toms River, New Jersey.  To discuss your hospital-acquired infection claim or any other medical malpractice issue, call the New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP today at 732-777-0100 or contact us online.