Every day, approximately one out of every 25 hospital patients will suffer an infection, according to an annual report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These are called hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and they can have devastating consequences, as they cause tens of thousands of deaths each year.
There are several things you need to know about these potentially-deadly ailments, from risk factors and common types of infections to how to establish liability if you believe your infection was caused by medical malpractice.
What Is A Hospital Acquired Infection?
An HAI is also known as a health care-acquired infection. It develops during your stay at a healthcare facility, such as a hospital, when you are being treated for a health problem or disease. HAIs can occur in a variety of healthcare facilities besides hospitals, including long-term care facilities, surgical centers and end-stage renal disease facilities.
Who Is At-Risk For Developing An Infection?
While anyone could develop an infection during their stay at a health care facility, some patients are more susceptible than others, including:
- Patients who are extremely ill
- Patients staying at a hospital after surgery
- Patients who need urinary catheters
- Patients on ventilators
- Patients who need catheters for hemodialysis when their kidneys are failing
- Patients who used too many antibiotics or used them improperly
What Are The Risk Factors For A Healthcare Facility?
The main risk factor for health care facilities is a lack of cleanliness in the hospital and its treatment settings. Lack of cleanliness could include:
- Poor filtration in the air conditioning
- Unclean water systems
- Tables and work surfaces that have not been sterilized
- Non-sanitary medical devices
- High concentration of patients
- Poor hygiene by doctors and hospital staff, including failure to wash and sanitize their hands on a regular basis
- Lack of proper care during intubation, use of intravenous drugs or urine catheterization
What Are The Most Common Hospital-Acquired Infections?
There are a wide range of infections that patients can acquire at a health care facility, such as:
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Clostridium difficile and other gastrointestinal infections
- Central-line associated bloodstream infections
- Surgical Site Infections
Is The Hospital Liable For My Infection?
Hospitals and other medical facilities have protocols for reducing the risk of patients suffering HAIs. Unfortunately, sometimes health care professionals skip steps and patients develop infections due to this negligence.
However, health care facilities and the doctors and staff that work at these places cannot be held liable unless you establish the elements of medical malpractice:
- Doctor-patient relationship – A physician must have agreed to provide treatment or diagnose your illness. This relationship is also established if you received treatment absent an agreement.
- Negligent care was provided – The medical professional treating you did not act in the same manner that a similarly-trained professional would have under similar conditions. In the case of an HAI, you may have to show that staff did not follow protocol on washing hands, sterilizing instruments or something else that increased the risk of an infection.
- The main cause of the harm you suffered was negligence – Your attorney needs to show that negligence was the direct cause of your infection and not something else, like a preexisting medical condition or your actions. This is one of the most contentious parts of any medical malpractice claim.
- The harm you suffered resulted in damages – Damages could include medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
Hospitals are often the liable party in lawsuits over HAIs, particularly when it is difficult to determine which doctor or staff member caused the infection. However, hospitals usually will not be held liable if the doctor who caused the infection is an independent contractor and not an employee of the hospital.
What If My Infection Was Diagnosed After I Left The Hospital?
If you are diagnosed with an infection in the days or weeks after your stay at a hospital, it is reasonable to suspect that you contracted the infection at the facility.
You should contact an attorney to review your medical records to determine if doctors and other staff members fulfilled their duty of care. If your attorney can prove negligence occurred, the hospital may be held liable.
Contact Our Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If your hospital acquired infection was caused by medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
The medical malpractice attorneys of O’Connor, Acciani & Levy will pursue your claim, working to recover fair compensation while holding negligent health care providers accountable for the harm they have caused you.
We have decades of combined experience and know what it takes to be successful in a personal injury claim.