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Hospital-Acquired Infections are More Common than People Think, and More Common than They Should Be

Posted by attorney Jared Everton

One might consider it ironic to contract an infection during a hospital visit, but it happens far more often than it should in hospitals across the United States. Healthcare-associated infections are infections that were not present at the time of admission to a healthcare facility. While most become evident after 48 hours of hospitalization, a hospital-acquired infection may wait until after the patient is discharged to show its symptoms. 1 in 20 patients contract an infection during their hospital stay, and these infections rank as a top 10 cause of death in the US.

Threatened under the new health care law (hospitals that have infection rates higher than the national average stand to lose a percentage of their Medicare funding beginning in 2015), hospitals are heightening awareness for hand-washing, diligently sterilizing medical equipment, and removing unnecessary catheter lines to limit the risk of hospital-acquired infections. Though hospitals around the country are making great efforts to minimize healthcare-associated infections through enhanced surveillance and new infection control programs, these infections continue to cause thousands of deaths and billions in healthcare costs every year.

Hospital patients are particularly sensitive to common bacteria that most people come in contact with every day. Patients with severe illness, patients who have undergone surgery, patients with immune system deficiencies, and patients who have been in the hospital for an extended period of time tend to be especially vulnerable to hospital-acquired infections. The most prevalent bacteria carriers in the healthcare setting are visitors, medical equipment, medical personnel, and the healthcare environment itself. Shockingly, medical personnel, including doctors, are leading causes of healthcare-associated infections. A study at a large university hospital revealed that doctors sanitized their hands only 57% of the time before examining patients.

These infections can occur in any patient, young and old, and babies younger than 1 with especially low birth weights are extremely susceptible. The most common hospital-acquired infections in children are bloodstream infections causing pneumonia and urinary tract infections, while older patients contract urinary tract infections most often.

Healthcare-associated infections can, more often than not, be considered examples of medical negligence. Hospital personnel, including nurses, doctors, surgeons, and caretakers, have the responsibility to wash their hands, sanitize their equipment, and protect their patients from bacteria and infection. If you or a family member has suffered a hospital-acquired infection, it is in your best interest to contact an Arizona medical malpractice attorney ASAP. If a family member has died due to such an infection, a Phoenix medical injury attorney can fight to win you damages for your medical costs and pain and suffering.

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