Hospital acquired infection is a growing problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 720,000 people per year get an infection from a health care facility where they were supposed to be healed. The number is likely higher, as these numbers represent only the known cases.
Hospital acquired infection can lead to the need for expensive medical care, lifelong health complications, and even death. Because these infections are preventable through standard sanitary precautions, there is no need for any patient to deal with this issue.
When Health Care Leads to Illness
At any time, the CDC estimates that one in twenty-five, or four percent, of hospital patients has a hospital acquired infection at any given time. This is very serious for several reasons. First, the bacteria and viruses that live in hospitals are often resistant to many antibiotics. These infections can easily become debilitating or deadly. Some people even get chronic infections that can never be successfully treated. This is very common with MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, and certain strains of E. coli. These diseases both can be deadly.
Second, people who are in the hospital are often immune-compromised in some way. Their immune system may be overtaxed, or they may have a wound that can easily be infected. These people need a place to be treated and recover that is not teeming with deadly bacteria, but many hospitals do not provide this. Around 75,000 people with a hospital acquired infection die every year in the United States.
Hospital Acquired Infections and Negligence
Routine hand-washing and keeping surfaces clean will kill 90% of bacteria and microbes even without the antibacterial soaps and disinfectants used in hospitals. The CDC considers hand washing the most important element of preventing hospital acquired infection. Hospital acquired infections are often a result of the failure to follow standard sanitary precautions.
Nurses, doctors, and other staff may forget to wash their hands between patients. Housekeeping staff may fail to disinfect surfaces regularly. There are many ways for a patient to catch a hospital acquired infection, but almost all are preventable with standard precautions and care.
Is It Malpractice?
There are four criteria for a medical error to be classified as malpractice. First, the medical personnel must have a “duty of care” to the patient. If they are treating you or are an employee of a health care facility where you are being treated, they have a duty to you.
Second, the medical staff must have acted negligently. In many cases, the mere existence of a hospital acquired infection is sufficient to prove this. Medical staff know how to prevent the spread of infection. Third, you must have been injured by the infection. Even if the infection was successfully treated, you may have had pain and suffering, time lost from work or other activities, and medical bills.
Last, you must be able to prove that the negligence of hospital staff was responsible for your infection. That is, you must demonstrate that you caught the infection in the health care facility and suffered damages as a result of that.
Hospital acquired infections are so common that agencies like the CDC and the World Health Organization are imploring medical staff to show more caution. If you have suffered from this illness, it is important to get the compensation that you need to treat the infection and fully recover.