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To Cure or To Contaminate: Hospital Care and the Truth Behind Hospital-Associated Infections

The word “hospital” is derived from the Latin word “hospes,” which means host or a visitor of a host. But even though hospitals are customarily thought of by patients as safe havens, they are actually filled with dangerous nosocomial infections, also known as hospital-associated infections (HAIs).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one out of every 20 hospitalized patients will develop an HAI. And with almost 100,000 HAI- related deaths a year, these infections can cause substantial harm to patients.

Magnitude of the Problem
HAIs are a nationwide concern, and cost the United States health care system billions of dollars each year. Many of these infections may be life-threatening, and recent studies have shown that as many as half of HAIs are preventable. HAIs also cause patient length of stays to increase by 8.0 days in ICUs and 7.4 to 9.4 days in acute care wards, taking up expensive capacity in hospitals while preventing other patients from accessing needed hospital beds.

In 2006, in a bid to get hospitals to do more to prevent these HAIs, Medicare stopped paying for patient care associated with certain serious health care-associated infections.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the majority of HAIs include:

· Bloodstream Infections · Urinary tract infections · Pneumonia · Surgical site infections
The HHS defines HAIs as “infections that people acquire while they are receiving treatment for another condition in a healthcare setting,” which includes hospitals, outpatient clinics, and long-term care facilities including rehabilitation centers and nursing homes.

Among the most likely of the HAIs to contract, urinary tract infections are the most common. These are usually caused when catheters are placed inside the bladder. The placement of catheters is usually done post-surgery so that the hospital staff is able to place medicine in the bladder or measure the urine output.

As a result of this method, bacteria are often introduced into the bladder when an unsterile catheter is placed into a patient causing a urinary tract infection. Patients with weak immune systems or patients who are taking antibiotics are especially prone to this type of infection.

Surgical infections are also another common HAI, and medical negligence may also lead to the increase in surgical infections. When unsterile surgical equipment is used during surgery, bacteria may grow inside of the patient or on a wound and cause a serious infection. Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, is another type of HAI that may be spread in hospitals, especially if individuals who have the bacteria fail to wash their hands.

Is Medical Negligence Primarily to Blame?

A bacterial infection can become a severe medical issue for an otherwise healthy individual. However, when a person who is already in a hospital for another malady becomes infected through an HAI, he or she has a much higher risk of becoming fatally ill.

While not every HAI is the result of medical malpractice, many could have been prevented from happening if the proper standard of care was met. If you or someone you know has developed an HAI that could have been prevented had proper care been provided, which may include failure to sterilize equipment, not washing one’s hands, or other careless acts, please feel free to contact our legal office to see how we can help.

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