How it Can Lead to a Medical Malpractice Claim
Written by: Kim Bouck, Esq.
Have you or a family member ever been in the hospital and developed an infection after having surgery or some other procedure? The development of a hospital-acquired infection (called a nosocomial infection) is more common than many people may realize, and there may be a chance for a victim to pursue a legal case for medical malpractice against the physician or hospital.
What is a Nosocomial Infection?
As defined by the World Health Organization, a nosocomial infection is“an infection acquired in hospital by a patient who was admitted for a reason other than that infection. This includes infections acquired in the hospital but appearing after discharge, and also occupational infections among staff of the facility.”
Contrary to common perception, a hospital can contain various avenues where a patient can develop unwanted diseases and infections. Some factors that can contribute to infection among hospitalized patients can include:
• The increasing variety of medical procedures and invasive techniques. As health care providers discover new ways of administering surgeries and other medical procedures, they also can create new routes for infection to spread along.
• The decrease of immunity among patients. As individuals are spending longer periods of time within a hospital or patient care facility, they tend to lose their immunity to certain infections and viruses. This can make them more susceptible to “catching” infections that other patients or staff members carry.
• Having poor infection control practices. This is a common contributor to the spread of infection within a hospital, and a common reason for many families to pursue legal advice from a Medical Malpractice attorney.
Even though medical providers are held to a certain standard when providing care to a patient, many fail to treat nosocomial infections in a timely or correct manner.
Types of Nosocomial Infections
The four most common types of hospital-acquired infections are urinary infections, surgical site infection, nosocomial pneumonia, and nosocomial bacteraemia.
Urinary Infections – Statistically shown as the most common type of infection a patient can receive while hospitalized. It is often caused by the insertion and use of a catheter.
Surgical Site Infection – A frequent infection characterized by discharge around or emanating from the surgical site.
Nosocomial Pneumonia – A common respiratory infection that can cause significant health deterioration or death in a patient.
Nosocomial Bacteraemia – A small portion of hospital-acquired infections, but also one with the highest mortality rates. It occurs when a patient develops bacteria along the path of a catheter or at other entry sites.
Reasons to Pursue a Medical Malpractice Claim
Codes of conduct for medical practices and standards of care are clearly communicated within the health industry. However, patients often develop infections while in the hospital, putting them at the mercy of their doctor to take correct, remedial action. If a physician or nurse does not properly treat these infections, however, claims for medical malpractice and hospital negligence are often made.
A few negligent actions that can put a physician or other provider at risk for medical malpractice include:
• Failing to recognize a patient’s infection
• Failing to treat the infection properly – different types of infections call for different types of treatment
• Failing to call on and consult with an infectious disease specialist if the infection is complex
• Failing to take the advice of the infectious disease specialist
• Failing to treat the infection in a timely manner
• Ordering the wrong tests to analyze the infection
Keep in mind that, since infection is a known complication of any invasive procedure, just the development of an infection in the hospital is not considered grounds enough to pursue a medical negligence claim. If, however, a procedure causes significant destruction of tissue (leaving you with a permanent injury or deformity), then there may be reason to call a medical malpractice attorney to investigate the infection case and its work up and treatment.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.