Healthcare-associated infections may occur due to breaches in protocol or inadequate policies, leaving patients at risk for complications and even death.
When people in Philadelphia seek medical treatment, there is usually a degree of risk that cannot be eliminated, even with the best preparation and protocols. Healthcare-associated infections, which range from surgical site infections to pneumonia, represent one danger that may never be fully mitigated. Unfortunately, in many cases, poor policies or careless choices on the part of hospital employees can amplify existing risks, resulting in unnecessary harm to patients.
Human error and other failings
Hospitals establish various protocols to minimize risk for patients as well as care providers. Still, everyday breaches are not uncommon. As a Baltimore Sun article notes, the recent case of a Texas nurse contracting Ebola from a patient after breaching hospital protocol calls attention to this issue. Breaches that are less newsworthy, but still potentially harmful or even deadly, may occur often.
In the same article, the senior vice president for patient safety at Johns Hopkins notes that breaches in basic protocol are not uncommon among medical providers. For example, compliance with simple hospital hand-washing requirements ranges from 50 to 90 percent.
In other hospitals, certain protective protocol may be lacking altogether. For instance, some hospitals do not require professionals to take basic precautions, such as wearing sterile masks, when inserting catheters. This leaves patients at risk for unnecessary infections.
According to the same Baltimore Sun report, upwards of 600 preventable deaths may occur everyday in healthcare settings. While infections are not the exclusive cause of these tragic losses, research shows that infections constitute a common problem that can have especially severe consequences.
The toll of preventable infections
As part of an ongoing effort to monitor healthcare-associated infections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study of these infections in acute care hospitals. The results are alarming:
- On average, 1 out of 25 patients at these facilities suffers from at least one healthcare-associated infection on any given day.
- In 2011, an estimated 722,000 healthcare-associated infections developed in acute care hospitals. More than half of these infections developed outside of intensive care units.
- The same year, about 75,000 patients succumbed to their healthcare-associated infections.
In the CDC survey, the most common infections were pneumonia, gastrointestinal illness, urinary tract infections, septic blood infections and postoperative infections. These infections can have wide-ranging effects, often starting with pain or delayed healing. Serious infections can prolong a patient’s hospital stay, affect the outcome of procedures and even necessitate revision surgeries. In extreme cases, infections can cause serious and potentially fatal consequences, such as organ failure.
Unfortunately for victims, establishing that a healthcare-associated infection should have been prevented can be difficult. Anyone who has suffered harm from one of these infections should consider meeting with an attorney to discuss the situation and determine whether seeking compensation is a reasonable option.