If I Contract an HAI, Is It Medical Malpractice?

Steven Schwartzapfel Dec 11, 2015
hospital acquired infection

The number of hospital infections are increasing across the nation. From deadly staph infections causing kidney failure to flesh-eating bacteria and even deadly viruses, more medical professionals are being held accountable for patients that acquire these deadly infections. Most of these types of infections are preventable – despite opposition that they cannot be controlled.

Understanding HAIs: Hospital Acquired Infections

HAIs are any infections that occur while a patient is staying at a hospital or within 48 hours of leaving the hospital. The infection is not related to the patient’s original reason for admission nor any underlying health conditions. Because of the variety of bacteria in a hospital, despite sanitization procedures, HAIs are extremely common.

In addition, when patients are admitted with diminished immune systems, the likelihood of them contracting an HAI increases significantly.

Common Types of HAIs

There are some HAIs that are more common than others, including:

  • Pneumonia
  • Surgical site infections
  • Sepsis (blood infection)
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Drug resistant strains (including MRSA)
  • Bloodborne pathogens
  • Influenza
  • Norovirus

Understanding Risks and Liabilities

An infection can be acquired in three ways, which helps determine who should be held responsible for the HAI:

  • Patient Risk – Certain things can put a patient at higher risk for developing an infection, including the duration of their stay, purpose of their stay, and their current medical health at the time of admission.
  • Organizational Risk – When a facility is not sanitized properly or does not have the time to clean equipment between patients, they increase the likelihood of a patient developing an HAI – whether that patient was immunocompromised or not.
  • Iatrogenic Risk – Hospital staff and physicians are in close contact with patients daily. When they fail to sanitize or remain absent from the hospital while ill, they could spread infections to patients. Also, physicians and hospital staff that do not wash hands or change gloves could transfer an infection from one patient to another.

Holding a Hospital Liable for an HAI

The cause of the infection will come under scrutiny when determining whether a hospital is liable for an HAI. If the patient developed an infection after discharge due to improper care of their surgical wounds, the hospital may not be considered liable. If, however, the patient develops an HAI from iatrogenic, organizational, or patient risks, the hospital or clinic where they contracted the infection could be liable for the patient’s additional treatment, pain and suffering, financial losses, or wrongful death (if death occurs).

Speak with a Medical Malpractice Regarding Your HAI

If you or a loved one developed an HAI during your hospital stay or after a procedure performed at a medical clinic, contact the attorneys at Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. to explore your options. You may be entitled to compensation for your infection and associated costs. Schedule a free consultation at 1-877-737-4806 or fill out an online contact form.

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