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Medical Negligence May Cause Infection

The Becker Law Firm, LPA

An infection that develops while hospitalized is sometimes the result of medical negligence. While many of these infections are treatable, some can result in more serious — even deadly — consequences. It also can lengthen a patient’s time spent in the hospital, increasing medical costs.

More and more, these institutions experience outbreaks that sometimes can be difficult to control. But they also may have been preventable in the first place.

What are the causes of infection outbreaks in hospitals?

The norovirus, which causes inflammation of the intestines and abdomen, is a common hospital infection. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Staphylococcus aureus (also known as staph infection) is another cause of hospital outbreaks. This bacteria can affect any part of the body, causing swelling, redness and pain. If it enters the bloodstream (sepsis), it can lead to low blood pressure, chills and fever.

Another cause of outbreaks is C. difficile (C. diff), an intestinal bacteria. One of the leading symptoms is frequent, watery diarrhea. But it also can be accompanied by fever and abdominal pain.

When hospital infections are difficult to treat, they can result in organ failure, brain damage or even death. Knowing the risk factors and taking appropriate measures may help prevent the spread.

Are there risk factors that hospitals should be aware of that may help prevent the spread of infection?

A weakened immune system is a definite risk, which is the situation for many hospitalized patients. Certain antibiotics also can result in the spread of bacteria. But recognizing these hazards in patients is only one part of the solution.

A clean, sterile environment can go a long way in preventing, or at least reducing, the spread of infection. This means understanding the sources of infection.

One example is with tubes, such as those used in catheters. They are a prime target for bacteria to grow. Hospitals should make sure they are never reused, left in too long or not properly cleaned.

Contact with patients also can cause the spread of germs. It is a serious risk when hospital staff don’t wear gloves or fail to wash their hands properly.

But even surfaces — such as toilets, sinks, remote controls, bedrails, light switches — can spread infection, not to mention the use of unsterile equipment and surgical tools. When linens, drapes that go over patients for surgery, gowns, curtains and bed sheets aren’t clean, these are other risk factors for infection.

Can a hospital be liable for illness or injuries caused by infection?

In order to hold a hospital and/or its staff liable for serious or fatal complications stemming from an infection, it must be proven that the infection was caused by medical negligence. One way this might be established is through evidence that shows the patient was not already infected prior to being admitted.

An investigation into the hospital’s practices might help uncover failures in preventing the spread of infection. If there are standards and protocols in place, but they aren’t followed, this might help prove negligence.

One of the Becker Law Firm’s medical malpractice attorneys might be able to help with a claim. A medical malpractice attorney can evaluate the circumstances surrounding a patient’s illness or injury to determine if it is a case of medical malpractice after suffering infection.

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