Easily Preventable Hospital Infections Kill 48,000 Patients a Year.
There are many things that can go wrong in a hospital. There are the obvious hazards, like a surgical error or a wrong or missed diagnosis. But there are also problems that stem from seemingly minor causes. For instance, let’s say some paperwork gets misfiled and a patient ends up being given the wrong medicine. Or someone doesn’t send the right form to the kitchen and a patient is given food to which he or she is allergic. Believe it or not, these aren’t “pie-in-the-sky” scenarios. They have actually happened to patients before. The only good thing that you can say about instances like these is that at least they took place in a hospital.
As long as hospitals are run by human beings, mistakes will be part and parcel of medical care. Whether the mistakes are life threatening or just a minor inconvenience is entirely up to the doctors, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists and administrators. But as attorneys who represent victims of these medical malpractice mistakes, what is profoundly aggravating to us is when people get severely hurt or even worse due to something that was completely preventable.
One common problem that happens a lot more than it should is hospital infections. This is something that should be so high on the prevention priority list, yet the number of instances of hospital infection occuring is simply mind boggling. According to a report released by a think tank named Resources for the Future, infections like sepsis and hospital pneumonia took the lives of 48,000 patients in American hospitals in 2006. These infections were caused by microbes that could have been easily prevented with simple infection control methods. And in the instances where the patients survived, these infections lengthened hospital stays and cost patients an extra $8.1 billion. If you consider how badly the average healthcare consumer in America is being squeezed by insurance companies to begin with, this almost becomes too much to bear.
These infections do not just magically manifest themselves. They happen when hospital staff fails to maintain sterility of both the instruments that they use and the areas in which they do their job. A sterile environment is crucial to successful medicine. This concept isn’t new to medicine. Operations occurring in sterile fields with sterile instruments have been recognized as crucial to patient survival since the mid -1880’s. Patients who are recuperating are also at risk, if you consider their bandages, wounds, stitches and IV needles that are handled on a daily basis by hospital staff. These infections are brought in when nurses or hospital staff don’t wash their hands, or surgeons or nurses don’t observe proper sterilization protocol. Bear in mind that the human skin has a very important function. It keeps the very vulnerable internal organs and functions of the human body from infections, and these internal organs and functions are never more vulnerable than after a medical or surgical procedure.
These infections cost lives, time and money. A person who goes in to a hospital to have their appendix removed who suddenly contacts a staph infection from their trusted doctor should not bear the fiancial or human cost. And in case you haven’t had this experience yourself, hospitals very rarely say “Oh, my fault, no charge,” when they make a mistake. They continue to charge regardless. Insurance companies may refuse to pay for mistakes made by hospitals or medical professionals who continue to bill for their mistakes. So ultimately, the patient is left with thousands of dollars of extra medical bills simply because a nurse forgot to wash her hands.
The unfairness of this situation is intolerable, and what else can you call it when medical professionals fail to observe safety and procedural standards causing patients to die or be injured as a result?
Preventing these hospital infections isn’t a herculean task. These infections don’t simply materialize. And the idea that patients should be on the financial hook for easily preventable medical mistakes is unfair.
Greenberg and Bederman is a Washington, D.C. personal injury lawfirm based in Silver Spring, Maryland. A significant portion of our practice is dedicated to helping Virginia, Maryland and D.C. victims ofmedical malpractice. Our malpractice attorney is John Sellinger, who was voted into Maryland and DC Superlawers in 2008, 2009, and 2010, and is a medical malpractice injury attorney who has devoted his practice to helping those who have been injured by doctors or medical providersnegligence.
If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or D.C. has been injured due to a hospital infection or other surgical or medical error, contact the medical malpractice injury firm of Greenberg and Bederman for a free legal consultation today.