We go to hospitals to get well, not to get sick. Unfortunately, thanks to medical malpractice, it does not always work out that way. Sometimes these healthcare provider errors can result in patients suffering infections that can be life threatening. Two people who recently lost their lives due to a “superbug” were infected with their fatal disease when they were at a California hospital.
Nearly 180 Patients Exposed to Superbug
The Los Angeles Times reports that nearly 180 patients who were treated at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center may have been exposed to a potentially deadly bacteria that has already killed at least two people. They did not contract this illness from some other sick patient roaming the hospital. Instead, the culprit is contamination. Medical scopes contaminated with this bacteria were used on these patients. Another report by the newspaper notes that an 18-year old patient still in the hospital was diagnosed back in October with the drug resistant superbug CRE. He was treated with a medical scope tied to the outbreak.
Yet it took until January 28 for doctors to confirm that the infections are tied to the scopes. These scopes are the type used to examine and treat cancers, gallstones, and other digestive system ailments. They are called duodenoscopes. While the use of this technology has saved lives due to early detection of fatal if untreated conditions, the scopes can be difficult to disinfect between patients due to their design. The devices have what is called an “elevator channel” which is used to bend the device in tight spaces inside the patient’s body. While this is great for treatment, it’s also a great place for bacteria to build up.
Is it the Hospital’s Fault or the Medical Device Manufacturer’s Fault?
It is still too early to know who is to blame for these illnesses and deaths. An early investigation indicates that the medical device manufacturer may to blame for not determining an effective cleaning protocol for the scopes. However, even if the device manufacturer is ultimately to blame for the problem in the first place, there are still questions regarding the handling of the outbreak and whether the hospital did enough to discover the problem and inform potential victims about the risk.
What is this Superbug?
The superbug in question is called CRE . It is a deadly bacteria and if it spreads to a person’s bloodstream there is a 40% to 50% chance the patient will die. In the last three years there have been other outbreaks in Seattle, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. The Seattle outbreak which did not involve CRE specifically but instead a very similar bacterial strain, caused 32 patients to fall ill. Eleven patients died. These patients were sickened by contaminated endoscopes just like the Los Angeles patients.
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