Stopping Deadly Hospital Acquired Infections

When you go the hospital, you hope to get qualified medical treatment and to leave the hospital feeling better. Unfortunately for thousands of Massachusetts residents each year, the trip to the hospital can be complicated by hospital acquired infection, often with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These infections are expensive to treat, life-threatening, and sometimes fatal. The cost in human life and dollars is staggering. Worse, inattention to basic hygiene by hospital staff is often the
cause.

Now Massachusetts is starting to do something about these deadly complications. The state Public Health Council voted in February to increase inspections and to publish hospital complication rates from infections. Recognizing that healthcare related infections may be costing up to $473 million per year, the Public Health Council is demanding that hospitals put far greater emphasis on reducing their infection rates. Hospital infection rates from all hospitals will soon be available to the public.

Massachusetts is not the first state to focus on this problem. Roughly a dozen other states have already put in place similar measures to fight the national problem of hospital acquired infections, which may be killing up to 90,000 people per year around the country.

The infections result from a combination of problems. Many bacterial organisms have grown resistant to antibiotics, so fighting these infections is expensive and difficult. Failing to isolate infected individuals, and failure to maintain strict hygiene in the hospital cause the bacteria to be spread with the hospital facilities. Hospital treatments can introduce the bacteria deep in the body through catheters which are placed into blood vessels, and often threaded to organs. The result is often extended hospital stays, further surgery, expensive treatment, and sometimes wrongful death.

Consumers have the right to know about hospital infection rates, and the crackdown on hospital infections is overdue. It is a sad fact that attention to this serious problem has not come
earlier; thousands of lives and millions of dollars could have been saved.

If you feel you or a loved one has suffered a preventable hospital acquired infection, and suffered personal injury or wrongful death as a result of the negligence of a medical provider, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney immediately.

Additional Resources

Healthcare-Associated Infection Prevention Expert Panel, Links to Reports
State to launch crackdown on hospital infection rates, Boston Globe, 2/14/08
Hospital infection may cost $473 million, Boston Globe, 8/9/07
State seeks to reduce hospital acquired infection rates, Boston Globe, 1/11/07
Managementof Multidrug-Resistant Organisms in Healthcare Settings, CDC

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