According to a Gallup poll taken in December 2015, nurses, pharmacists and medical doctors are the three most trusted professionals in any industry. When someone is sick or injured, they must have absolute trust in the individuals who are caring for them.
So what happens when medical staff - whether through negligence or something beyond their control - fails to prevent infections acquired as a result of hospitalization and treatment? This is a serious question with life-threatening ramifications.
How common are hospital-acquired infections?
Even very simple hospital procedures entail a risk of infection. While medical advances of recent decades have led to marked decreases in the occurrence of these infections, a report published in 2014 by the Centers for Disease Control still showed 722,000 hospital-acquired infections in the US alone. That is about 9 percent of all patients. As a result of these infections, 75,000 patients lost their lives.
It is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of infection. Since many hospitalized patients have a compromised immune system due to their illnesses or injuries, sanitizing equipment and minimizing physical interaction with sick patients can help mitigate the risk of infection. However, procedures involving contact with patients always carry a risk. For example, nearly a third of hospital-acquired infections happen in the urinary tract as a result of catheterization.
Certain patients have a higher risk than others; for instance, young children, elderly or those with compromised immune systems. The risk is increased by the length of the patient's stay in the hospital, overuse of antibiotics and care providers who fail to wash their hands.
Hospital-acquired infections are a serious problem and steps to avoid them must be taken. Patients may have trust in their medical providers, but they should still remain vigilant. If necessary, patients have the right to request nurses and doctors wash and sanitize their hands and instruments. Should they have a urinary catheter, patients have the right to know if it is necessary or can be removed. Long-term catheterization is one of the most common causes of infection in the hospital. Before taking antibiotics, patients should make sure they are necessary and not excessive as they can further inhibit the immune system and promote certain infections.
If all precautions are taken, or if medical staff fails to observe safety protocols and an infection still occurs, patients should discuss their situation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
The financial setbacks of long-term hospitalization and the emotional damage of a serious illness are made worse when they are unnecessary. As such, hospital negligence is a serious offense and those responsible should be held accountable. Attorney Alan D. Bell has been an advocate for injured clients for over 35 years. He can help you take the steps needed to pursue your claim and provide you and your loved ones peace of mind for the future.