NY Med Mal Lawyer Chimes In on Hospital-Acquired Infections
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When people in New York go to the hospital for a surgery or emergency treatment, they shouldn’t have to worry about catching a serious or deadly infection. However, hospital-acquired infections affect up to 10 percent of patients every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In some cases, patients may have a claim for medical malpractice after contracting a hospital-acquired infection. If you or a loved one has been harmed by this type of infection, it’s important to speak to a New York City medical malpractice lawyer.
What Is a Hospital Acquired Infection?
Hospitals are supposed to be clean environments. In an environment where people are sick with various types of illnesses, it’s critical for hospital staff to maintain the highest standards of hygiene.
Unfortunately, patients can become very sick if they come into contact with certain strains of bacteria or viruses that typically inhabit hospitals. When a hospital-acquired infection occurs, the infection itself may have nothing to do with the patient’s original illness or condition. If not for being in the hospital, the patient wouldn’t have contracted the infection.
In many cases, patients who are in the hospital are vulnerable to these infections because they have a compromised immune system. Whereas a healthy person might be able to fight off the infection before it causes serious damage, a vulnerable hospital patient can become seriously ill as their body struggles to fight the virus or bacteria.
While each hospital-acquired infection case is different, there are certain factors that can put a patient at a higher risk of getting an infection.
- The patient’s health – In many cases, a healthier patient has a better chance of recovering from a hospital-acquired infection. In other patients, however, an infection can be very serious. Elderly patients are also at a higher risk, as they might be too weak to fight off a hospital-acquired infection. Additionally, patients with catheters, endotracheal tubes, intravenous and intra-arterial lines and other medical devices for a prolonged period of time are at higher risk for infection.
- The Institution– It’s also important to consider the overall cleanliness of the hospital or facility. In some cases, certain hospitals have a higher than average infection rate. In these cases, organizational procedures and protocols may leave patients more vulnerable to infections.
- Staff habits – Individual hygiene habits on the part of nurses, doctors and others can also lead to serious hospital-acquired infections. It’s important for medical personnel to wash their hands thoroughly between procedures and patients, and also to use proper sterilization techniques to maintain patient safety.
Types of Hospital Acquired Infections
There are several kinds of hospital-acquired infections that can harm patients. Because 1 out of 10 patients will acquire an infection in the hospital, it’s important for patients and their loved ones to be aware of the risks, as well as the symptoms of a hospital-acquired infection.
The most common hospital-acquired infections include staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, enterococci, and P. aeruginosa. These infections are all caused by bacteria. Patients can also experience surgical site infections, urinary tract infections, gastroenteritis, meningitis, and pneumonia. Because antibiotic resistance is a growing problem, it can often be difficult for doctors to find antibiotics that can successfully treat these infections. MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus) is a particularly dangerous hospital acquired infection that can lead to septic shock and death. Sometimes the treatment of an infection with antibiotics can cause another potentially fatal infection called C-difficlle, or can result in kidney or liver damage.
To be considered a hospital-acquired infection, the infection must typically occur within 48 hours after hospital admission or up to three days after discharge. In the case of surgeries, an infection is generally considered a hospital-acquired infection if it occurs within 30 days after the surgery.
The symptoms of a hospital-acquired infection can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include discharge from a wound, high fever, coughing or shortness of breath, difficulty urinating, headaches or nausea.
There is also an increased risk of contracting a hospital-acquired infection if the patient is admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In patients admitted to a pediatric ICU, the risk of acquiring an infection increased from 6.1 percent to 29.6 percent.
Treatment for hospital-acquired infections includes antibiotics and supportive care. Doctors also advise patients to rest and take in as many fluids as possible. In patients who contract a hospital-acquired infection, many end up requiring an extended recovery time. Individuals that catch a hospital-acquired infection typically stay in the hospital 2.5 times longer than a patient who doesn’t get an infection.
Preventing Hospital Acquired Infections
The best way to prevent hospital-acquired infections is for medical personnel to practice good hygiene and follow all sterilization procedures. It’s also important to screen patients admitted to the ICU to determine if they already have an infection When patients are screened, hospitals can keep sick patients isolated from those who don’t have infections, which can stop the spread of dangerous bacteria.
Prompt Diagnosis and Treatment of Hospital Acquired Infections
While it may be impossible to prevent all hospital acquired infections, physicians, nurses and other hospital personnel have a responsibility to promptly diagnose and treat infections when they occur. If the medical providers fail to recognize and treat infections in a timely manner, the infections can progress to sepsis, which can be fatal. Failure to promptly diagnose and treat a post-operative or other hospital acquired infection can be the basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a hospital-acquired infection in New York, it’s important to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney immediately. In many cases, hospitals will deny any wrongdoing, which is why you need an attorney that will aggressively fight to protect your rights. Discuss your case today with Jonathan C. Reiter Law Firm, PLLC. Call (212) 736-0979 and schedule a free consultation.
NY Malpractice Attorney Jonathan C. Reiter
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