Hospital-acquired infections may be considered malpractice when hospital staff’s negligence caused a patient’s infection, making them seriously injured or ill. Far from uncommon, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that as many as 1.7 million hospital-acquired infections occur every year, causing as many as 99,000 deaths.
Some patients may be at a greater risk of hospital-acquired infections than others, such as young children, the elderly, and immune-compromised individuals. Other people at a high risk of such an infection are those who undergo surgery. These individuals, when infected, can spend an additional six days in the hospital, are five times more likely to return to the hospital after discharge, and are twice as likely to die.
What Is a Hospital Acquired Infection?
A hospital-acquired infection is an infection that occurs as a result of someone’s stay in the hospital. It’s not directly related to why they were admitted to the hospital or their overall health. In other words, a hospital-acquired infection is an infection that would not have occurred had the patient not entered the hospital.
Different Types of Hospital Acquired Infections
Not all hospital-acquired infections are the same, but some occur more commonly than others.
A few of the most common of these infections include the following:
- Staph Infections: A staph infection is caused by the bacteria staphylococcus aureus, which is often found on the skin or upper respiratory tract. Depending on where it enters the body, it can cause different infections. Boils or impetigo, for example, are signs of a skin infection.
- Urinary Tract Infections: UTIs are infections of the bladder or kidneys caused by E. coli bacteria and other pathogens. When these are present near or in the urethra, they can cause a painful infection.
- Surgical Site Infections: These infections typically occur when bacteria or viruses enter the bloodstream at an incision site after surgery. They can also occur as a result of an unsterile environment during surgery.
- Bloodstream Infections: These infections occur when bacteria enter the bloodstream through a laceration or lesion on the patient’s body. Bloodstream infections are incredibly serious, with severe illness and death occurring if not quickly treated.
- Gastrointestinal Infections: Infections of the stomach and/or intestines can commonly occur in certain healthcare facilities, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers.
When Are Hospitals Liable for Hospital Acquired Infections?
Hospitals are liable for infections that occur at their facilities when staff members’ negligence contributed to causing such infections.
Because hospital-acquired infections are incredibly common, they aren’t necessarily considered medical malpractice. When staff fails to exercise reasonable care according to the accepted medical and sterilization practices, however, hospitals can be held liable for infections that cause a patient’s severe illness, injury, or death.
Factors that can point liability toward a hospital include the following:
- Lack of Informed Consent: The patient didn’t know about the potential risk for infection or withheld important information about their risk of an infection because they didn’t know the risk was present.
- Delay in Treatment: The hospital delayed a patient’s diagnosis or treatment for an infection, causing it to spread unnecessarily or otherwise cause greater harm.
- Surgical Neglect: The hospital’s surgical staff did not practice proper sanitization procedures or care during a surgical operation, using contaminated blood, unsanitary equipment, or otherwise allowing contamination to occur and cause infection.
- Failure to Disinfect: Infections in a hospital can spread like wildfire unless equipment is regularly disinfected. If a hospital is negligent in ensuring or practicing equipment disinfection, it may be liable for medical malpractice after a patient suffers from a hospital-acquired infection.
Contact an Attorney for Legal Assistance
If you or a loved one experienced unnecessary illness or injury because of an infection that occurred at the hospital, reach out to the Law Office of David Kates for help. As an experienced medical malpractice lawyer, our attorney can help you fight for compensation for damages you incurred as a result of the infection.
For more information, contact the Law Office of David Kates online today and ask to schedule a free initial consultation.