Usually, when you go to the hospital, you expect to be treated and hopefully feel better. But in some cases, can going to the hospital actually make you sicker? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
Hospital-acquired infections can develop, which can create a whole new set of problems for patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospital-acquired infections are an often-preventable threat to a patient’s health and overall survival.
Types of Hospital-Acquired Infections
Unfortunately, hospital-acquired infections are common. According to CDC, about one in 25 patients have a hospital-acquired infection. There are various types of hospital-associated infections, such as central line infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, surgical site infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia. The cause of hospital-acquired infections also varies, but some common diseases include the following:
MRSA: MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. MRSA is caused by staph bacteria and is one of the most common hospital-acquired infections. MRSA is resistant to certain types of antibiotics and can become life-threatening in some situations.
VRE: Enterococci is a type of bacteria that is found in the intestinal tract. Although it is often harmless, it can also cause infection in some people. Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci is an infection that is associated with wounds, surgical procedures and catheters.
C-Diff: Clostridium difficile is a bacterial infection association with prolonged antibiotic use. The bacteria is found in the stool of infected patients. It can also be spread between patients by healthcare workers.
CRE: Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae is an emerging “superbug” and currently is not a notifiable infection to the CDC, which means tracking is not necessarily accurate. The infection is especially difficult to treat since it is resistant to several antibiotics.
Certain factors increase a person’s risk of developing a hospital-acquired infection. For instance, the elderly and people with a compromised immune system, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, are at an increased risk of developing a hospital-associated infection. Long hospital stays, especially in the intensive care unit also increases your risk of developing a hospital-acquired infection.
Why Hospital-Acquired Infections Occur
Although having certain conditions increase a person’s risk of hospital-acquired infections, human error is also often a factor. Infections can occur as a direct result of bacteria entering through a surgical incision, breathing tube or urinary catheter.
Infections can also be transmitted from patient to patient via medical staff. Common objects, such as stethoscopes, can become contaminated and cross contaminates patients. For example, if a patient has a MRSA skin infection and is treated by a doctor, the physician can carry the bacteria into another patient’s room infecting that person.
In some cases, hospital-acquired infections may be transmitted from patient to patient due to inadequate staff training. Medical workers may not have been educated on proper procedures for decreasing transmission of infections.
Overcrowding can also lead to an increased risk of spreading infections. For example, an overcrowded emergency room may result in increased wait times, which increases a patient’s exposure to infections.
In other instances, negligence is to blame. Hospital staff including physicians may not follow the protocols and policies in place to prevent hospital-associated infections.
Ramifications of Hospital-Acquired Infections
Regardless of the cause or type of infection, hospital- acquired infections can have several consequences including the following:
- Longer hospital stays: People who develop hospital- acquired infections often require longer hospital stays. Longer stays put patients at an even higher rate for developing more complications.
- Increased costs: Longer hospital stays also means more treatment and more costs. The CDC estimates that annually hospital-acquired infections cost patients over ten billion dollars.
- Lost wages: Hospital associated infections can lengthen recovery time and prevent you from returning to work, resulting in lost wages.
- Death: In some cases, hospital-acquired infections can be fatal. According to the Alliance for Aging Research, in the United States, about 99,000 people die every year due to hospital-acquired infections.
The bottom line is when a patient develops a hospital- acquired infection it delays recovery and increases the risk of complication and even death. The consequences can affect everything from physical health to employment.
If you or a loved one suffered from a catastrophic hospital-acquired infection, you may have a viable claim for negligence to help with the substantial financial and emotional toll. To schedule a free consultation with one of our top-rated attorneys, please call our office at 312-527-4500.