A Nosocomial Infections Lawyer Can Help You Recover Damages for a Hospital-Acquired Infection

Contracted during a patient’s medical treatment at a hospital or clinic, nosocomial or hospital-acquired infections are particularly dangerous . At the same time, they are also easily preventable, and their development often indicates medical malpractice. Nonetheless, proving liability for a nosocomial infection can be particularly difficult. Medical practitioners and hospitals can easily cover up instances of wrongdoing, passing off an infection as a normal medical complication. Accordingly, you need an experienced nosocomial infections lawyer to successfully pursue your case. If you or a loved one are suffering the effects of such an infection, the team at Wagar Richard Kutcher Tygier & Luminais, LLP in Metairie, LA, can help you pursue a lawsuit and collect due restitution. 

What Are Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAI)?

When a person is infected with a disease that they did not have when they entered the hospital, they have acquired a Hospital-Acquired Infection, also known as a Healthcare-Associated Infection (HAI). Hospitals can be breeding grounds for dangerous and even deadly bacterial diseases. Viral and fungal infections can also flourish. There are many hospitals that do an excellent job of maintaining proper protocol and protecting their patients. Unfortunately, there are also numerous locations that neglect or blatantly disregard industry standards.

Patients can show symptoms of an acquired infection starting approximately 48 hours after admission. These are considered HAI. In other cases, the symptoms of infections may not appear until after discharge. In either case, if the infection was picked up during the hospital stay, it is considered an HAI.

Many hospitals do an excellent job of maintaining proper protocol and protecting their patients. Unfortunately, there are also numerous locations that neglect or blatantly disregard industry standards.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 648,000 people develop an HAI each year. In about 75,000 cases, the infection will be fatal. Unfortunately, the significant health risk is downplayed in our society. Few people realize that the number of fatalities from HAI is almost twice the number of auto accident fatalities each year.

Common HAIs

Gloved hands holding a petri dishHAIs vary widely and can affect any part of the body. Depending on the type of infection, symptoms can be mild or life-threatening. Two particularly dangerous types of infection are C. diff (clostridium difficile) and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). C. diff bacteria are often found in the gut. Although they can spread in many ways, one of the most common modes is through interaction with human feces. C. diff causes colitis, or an inflammation of the colon. Symptoms can include diarrhea, nausea, severe cramps, and blood in the stool. If it is not treated in time, patients can become dehydrated. In turn, this can lead to decreased kidney function and high blood pressure. In rare cases, a patient’s bowels could perforate or rupture.

MRSA is most common among patients who have had surgery, an IV, or a joint replacement. In the initial stages, this type of staph skin infection typically causes small, pimple-like bumps to appear. They can be warm to the touch and may be accompanied by fever. As the infection spreads, the small bumps will develop into much larger abscesses that will need to be lanced. In particularly serious cases, the abscesses could penetrate deeper into the body. Infection could develop in the bones, muscles, or blood stream, sometimes with fatal effects.

The Causes and Prevention of Nosocomial Infections

There are two primary causes of HAIs. The first is direct body contact between a host and a patient. These instances can include:

  • A nurse helping a patient to turn over or move in bed
  • Giving a patient a bath
  • Other patient care activities
  • Patient to patient transmission

The second cause is contact with a contaminated inanimate object. These objects can include:

  • Surgical instruments
  • Needles
  • Dressings
  • Gloves
  • Saline flush syringes
  • Vials
  • Bags

Organizations like the National Institute of Health have issued a number of guidelines to help prevent infection, and they have become an established standard of care in the industry. Healthcare workers are instructed to:

  • Wash their hands as often as possible
  • Remove all jewelry before handwashing
  • Use antiseptic hand sanitizer
  • Clean stethoscopes with an alcohol swab at least once daily
  • Supplement handwashing by wearing gloves
  • Thoroughly disinfect all IVs before insertion
  • Remove peripheral catheters after 72 hours
  • Wear masks in the operating room and when dressing wounds
  • Wear white coats in the clinic
  • Wear gowns in all neonatal units

These protocols are not failsafes, and they tend to fail more often in some hospitals than in others.

Treatment for HAIs

To treat an HAI, a doctor would follow the same course of action as he or she would address a normally developing infection. Antibiotics, antiviral therapy, and antifungal treatment can take many different forms. Oral and IV medications are among the most common treatments. However, in some cases, patients with a severe infection may require surgery. Of course, the best treatment is to prevent the infection before it happens.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Suit for an HAI

Even if you or your loved one has been treated for an HAI, you may still be eligible for a medical malpractice lawsuit. To have a valid legal claim, you must be able to show that you suffered substantial loss. Typically, this loss involves financial strain as well as permanent or long-term medical complications. For example, if you are out of work because of a nosocomial infection, a lawsuit can help you recover damages for lost wages and support for dependents. If you have made a full recovery from your HAI, you may not have grounds for a valid lawsuit.

Proving Liability for a Nosocomial Infection

If you believe you may qualify for a medical malpractice claim, it is vital that you find experienced legal counsel. To prove liability, you must be able to show that the infection was the result of negligence and not simply an unfortunate side effect. This requires knowledge of the medical field and the testimony of a medical expert witness. Furthermore, ultimate responsibility may lie with one or more individuals. For example, if a nurse passed the infection, the hospital may be found at fault since nurses are usually hospital employees. On the other hand, doctors are typically contractors, so the hospital may not share liability. As a further complication, in some cases, hospitals can still be found guilty if they did not properly vet a doctor practicing in the facility.

Contact Us for a Case Evaluation

With significant experience in the complex arena of medical malpractice and established relationships with qualified professionals, our team can create a strong argument on your behalf. Contact us online to schedule your free consultation. You can also reach us at (504) 830-3838.

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