Malpractice Watch: Indiana Hospital Infections an Ongoing Concern

A recent report from the Associated Press contends that 1 out of every 20 patients who enter a hospital will pick up an infection they didn’t have before they arrived.
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The rates are higher for those who undergo surgery or some form of intensive treatment requiring intravenous lines.

Our medical malpractice attorneys know that while some hospitals and hospital staffers place reducing infections high on the priority list, many still aren’t doing enough to prevent hospital-acquired illnesses. We’re not talking a simple cough or cold. We’re talking bloodstream infections or superbug viruses that can lead to serious illness and even death.

Bloodstream infections, introduced primarily through intravenous catheters used to deliver nutrition, fluids or medication, account for about 15 percent of all hospital-acquired infections and account for 30 percent of the approximately 100,000 yearly hospital-related deaths. Even for those who do survive such an infection, recovery usually means weeks or months of intensive treatment and brutal side effects.

For a long time, physicians and hospital administrators considered these type of infections, known as central line infections, to be a simply unavoidable risk for those receiving intensive care treatment. However, there has been research showing that infections rates can be reduced to nearly zero by rigorously following a checklist that involves simple sanitary procedures. The proof of this is in the 13 percent of reporting hospitals in the country that have zero central line infection rates. (This is only 138 of 1,068 hospitals that report their infection rates to state authorities; Indiana has no hospitals on that list.)

But this isn’t the only problem. Bacterial and viral “suberbugs” have been gaining intense coverage as of late, for the fact that hospitals are having a difficult time purging their facilities of hard-to-fight germs.

Many hospitals have turned to state-of-the-art approaches to help fight these type of infections, including robots that emit hydrogen peroxide vapors or ultraviolet light. They’re also purchasing antimicrobial linens, wall paint and curtains and providing call buttons, IV polls and bed rails that are made from germ-resistant copper.

The benefits of all of this are debatable, though those making the effort are to be commended. However, all of this may be in no small part due to the fact that insurance companies and in some cases even Medicare are declining to pay bills for treatment of hospital-acquired infections. That doesn’t mean patients won’t be treated, but it means the hospital becomes responsible for those bills. So suddenly, instead of financially benefiting when patients are forced to stay in treatment longer than intended, hospitals will be losing money. That gives them a real incentive to fight back aggressively.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that hospital-acquired infections result in an additional $30 billion each year in U.S. medical costs.

In addition to central line infections, another bug that is receiving a lot of attention recently is C-diff. This diarrhea-causing infection has been linked to some 14,000 deaths each year, according to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. While this is easier to treat than some other types of hospital infections, like MRSA, it’s tough to clean away on hospital surfaces. Those facilities that aren’t meeting the minimal standards for sanitation have seen a major spike in C-diff cases.

Indiana Personal Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles medical malpractice cases throughout northern Indiana, including Gary, Hammond and Calumet City. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:
Hospitals see surge of superbug-fighting products, April 29, 2013, Staff Report, Associated Press
More Blog Entries:
Humira Defective Drugs Law Suit, July 18, 2011, Munster Personal Injury Lawyer Blog