When does a hospital acquired infection rise to medical negligence?

The WHO reports that hospital acquired infections are a major cause of death for patients staying in hospitals. In some cases, these infections could be the result of medical negligence.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a hospital acquired infection (HAI) as "an infection acquired in hospital by a patient who was admitted for a reason other than that infection ... this includes infections acquired in the hospital but appearing after discharge, and also occupational infections among staff of the facility." These infections are very dangerous and are a major cause of death for patients staying in hospitals. Examples include Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff, and Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

How do hospitals reduce the risk of HIAs?

Hospitals are taking active steps to reduce the risk that patients will suffer from an HAI. A publication available through the U.S. National Library of Medicine's National Institutes of Health provides some recommendations for hospitals. Two examples that can help facilitate infection control:

  • Hand hygiene. It may seem like a simple concept, but washing hands in between seeing patients can greatly reduce the spread of these dangerous germs.
  • Patient-care equipment management. It is also important to carefully clean equipment that comes in contact with patients. These devices should be handled carefully to prevent transmission of the disease to another person through direct contact or indirect contact. This could include transferring the germs from the device to clothing or footwear.

A recent article in MedCityNews discussed advances designed to reduce the risk of transmission of these diseases through the use of patient-care equipment. The piece discusses the use of UV light to disinfect this type of equipment. A paper published in the American Journal of Infection Control supports the use of UV light to reduce the risk of HAIs. More specifically, it studied the use of pulsed xenon ultraviolet light for room disinfection (UVD). UVD was found to reduce the risk of HAIs in adult intensive care units by 70 percent, compared to those that did not use UVD.

What does this mean for those who have experienced a HAI?

Hospitals and medical professionals are expected to take certain precautions when treating their patients. If these precautions are not taken, the physician or hospital may be found negligent in its attempt to provide medical care. If negligence is present, any patient that is injured by these attempts may be eligible to receive compensation to help cover the costs connected to this injury. This could include additional hospital bills, rehabilitative expenses or medication costs among other expenses.

As such, it is wise to contact an experienced attorney in the event that you or a loved one was injured by an HAI. Your lawyer can review your experience and build a case that represents your situation, better ensuring that you receive all available legal remedies to help you heal after receiving negligent medical care.

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