Hospital-acquired, or nosocomial, infections are those acquired by patients who are in the hospital for a reason different than the infection. Those that are preventable and caused by hospital negligence could result in the hospital and staff being held liable in a claim.
Hospital-Acquired Infections: Surgical Site
One common type is a surgical-site infection. Sometimes they are unavoidable, but other times they are the result of contamination stemming from poor hygiene on the part of the healthcare provider or improper wound cleansing.
There are generally three kinds of surgical-site infections. The first is a superficial infection that impacts the area of the incision and is easily treatable.
The second kind is a deep infection that usually comes from underneath the incision in the muscle and produces pus. If the wound doesn’t open on its own, a doctor may need to open it in order to clean it out.
A third kind is an infection that affects an organ or the space around it. The danger with this kind is that it can spread throughout the body via the lymphatic system and others.
Hospital-Acquired Infections: C. Difficile
A second common type of infection is C. difficile (clostridium difficile). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that about 14,000 people die each year from complications of this infection. Diarrhea is the cause via loss of fluids.
This type of infection is passed to patients from the healthcare staff via fecal contamination. Healthcare providers who fail to wash their hands or use gloves unknowingly can pick up stray fecal matter from an unsanitary surface in the hospital and accidentally transfer it to a patient by touching an open wound, a mucous membrane or an IV. Unsterile equipment (rectal thermometers) or surfaces (toilets) are common places where C. difficile is picked up.
Hospital-Acquired Infections: Central Line
The final type of common HAI is the central line infection. This is a bloodstream infection and the most serious of the three. It develops through a central line (catheter) placed in a large vein.
Central lines are most often used in the ICU, so patients who are already ill and have compromised immune systems are especially prone to developing an infection. These infections can be prevented with good hand washing, sterilizing equipment and surfaces, and not leaving the central line in any longer than necessary.
The hospital itself could be held liable if an infection causes serious or fatal injuries. It would need to be proven that negligence was the cause, such as a failure to implement standards that prevent infection or a failure to enforce them.
Healthcare providers who work in the hospital also could be liable. Examples would be a surgeon who doesn’t properly cleanse a wound after an operation or a nurse who uses the same thermometer on different patients without sterilization.
Once it’s been determined who is liable, the type of compensation that can be sought will need to be established. It may include medical expenses stemming from the infection, lost earnings, mental anguish, and pain and suffering.
If the infection resulted in death, surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death claim after hiring Fayetteville personal injury lawyers to represent them. This could lead to compensation for the aforementioned, along with funeral expenses and loss of consortium, such as affection, companionship or parental guidance.
When the care received in a hospital is substandard and it results in sickness or injury, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice. Brent Adams & Associates are Fayetteville personal injury lawyers who represent victims of hospital negligence with hospital-acquired infections.