At Clark and Steinhorn, we tend to see many kinds of potential cases, and hospital acquired, infection, (H.A.I.) malpractice cases are among the most frequent. When your professional sphere consists of badly injured victims of car and truck crashes, train and bus crashes and improperly treated medical patients, you tend to get a skewed view of the world and its risks.
There is an inevitable tendency to perceive that medical care in Maryland and the District of Columbia has deteriorated. We see many people who are hospitalized for personal injuries and who later emerge from the hospital with new complications, unrelated to the initial hospital admission. Most of these complications are infections.
This of course yields a couple of questions. First, how high is the incidence of hospital acquired infection? Second, is there anything that can be done about hospital acquired infection? Finally, is hospital acquired infection a sufficient basis to bring a successful medical malpractice or negligence action?
The U.S. Center for Disease Control (C.D.C.) has recently released its latest findings regarding H.A.I.'s and while it is clear efforts are afoot to reduce such infections, the numbers are not very comforting. http://www.cdc.gov/media/dpk/2014/dpk-hai.html
For example, 4% of hospital patients acquire infections during their stay, some acquiring more than one! Or, 200 people die every day from hospital acquired infections! In 2011 almost 650,000 people suffered such infections and 75,000 of them died! The numbers are really quite staggering and with the increased prevalence of infections such as MRSA, that resist antibiotics, it is hard to be sanguine about reducing or controlling this phenomenon.
Okay, so there seems to be a lot of hospital infection, are there things being done to fix things and how successful are they? Well, the answer to that question is yes and no. Some former infectious problems have been made better. For example post-surgical infection has been greatly reduced and infection from "central line placement" has been vastly decreased. Better practices to ensure sanitary conditions in health care providers interaction with patients has helped. The CDC has laid out a strategy for reducing HAI's.http://www.health.gov/hai/prevent_hai.asp
The bottom line, there is still a huge problem and one has to be wary when hospitalized and attentive to changes in the patient's state.
Which leads to the question of whether or not hospital acquired infections are "medical malpractice" or "medical negligence"? Can one bring a successful law suit for death or permanent injury stemming from hospital acquired infection?
The answer to that question is a case by case matter. Oddly the prevalence of HAI makes defense of such cases easier. On the one hand the public perceives that one goes to the hospital to get better not worse. On the other hand the hospitals are having such difficulty stopping the more frequent infections such as Clostridium difficile (or C. diff) and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), that they can attempt to rely on patient's assumption of such risks as a defense.
In other words because the infection problems are now public knowledge, they have become a "known risk". The most important take away is that serious infection cases bear review from attorneys experienced in such cases. If you live in the Laurel, Maryland area or in greater Prince George's County and have concerns about such a case, give us a call at (301) 317-1001.