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HOSPITAL AND NURSING HOME ACQUIRED INFECTIONS

Hospital patients put their trust in healthcare facilities and expect to receive the best possible care. What they don’t expect is to contract an infection during their hospital stay. Unfortunately, 1 of 20 patients will become infected while in the hospital. (In an intensive care unit, up to 30 percent of patients will be infected.) “On an annual basis, there are at least 700,000 of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). These hospital-acquired infections result in upwards of 75,000 deaths every year,” said Personal Injury Attorney Kevin Quinn.

Most common HAIs

Caused by viral, bacterial, and fungal pathogens, HAIs can take many forms. The most common types include:

Respiratory infections

Simply walking into a hospital can potentially expose a person to infectious microbes. Pneumonia is a common HAI that causes lung inflammation. It occurs when bacteria or viruses get into the lower respiratory system, which is usually sterile. Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is a specific type of pneumonia contracted through an intubation tube and ventilator.

Surgical site infections (SSIs)

These infections occur after a surgical procedure. SSIs involve an infection in the area of the surgical incision. The infection can be the result of unsanitary conditions during the procedure or improper wound care afterwards.

Gastrointestinal infections

Gastroenteritis is the most common HAI in children. The infection typically stems from rotavirus. Adults who contract gastroenteritis in a hospital are often infected by Clostridium difficile. The bacterium, also known as C. difficile or C.diff is particularly dangerous since it has become resistant to many antibiotics.

Urinary tract infections

Catheters are sometimes necessary for people who are unable to empty their bladder in the usual way. The bladder and urinary tract are usually germ-free environments, but the catheter tube can introduce pathogens which cause UTIs.

Bloodstream infections

Inserted into patients through a major vein in the neck, chest or groin, central lines are an indispensable medical tool. They facilitate the administration of fluids and precise doses of medication. Unfortunately, they can allow pathogens to get directly into the bloodstream, resulting in a potentially serious widespread infection.

Patients who contract a HAI can suffer significant side effects and complications. In the most severe cases, patients will develop sepsis, a form of “blood poisoning” resulting from the body’s overwhelming immune system response. Sepsis has a remarkably high mortality rate of between 40% and 60%.

Risk factors for HAIs

Any patient is at risk of acquiring an infection during a hospital stay. However, there are certain factors that increase the risk of an HAI. 

Healthcare related factors surgical procedures, the use of invasive devices and excessive antibiotic use. (Studies indicate that up to half of the antibiotics prescribed in hospitals are unnecessary or inappropriate.)

Environmental factors include the layout of the hospital, which typically place patients in close proximity to one another, allowing infections to spread quickly. In a hospital setting, it is crucial that air-exchange, humidity, pressure and temperature be precisely controlled. A faulty HVAC system can increase the risk of infection for patients.

Patient-related factors include the severity of the underlying medical problem, use of immunosuppressive agents, length of the hospital stay, and the patient’s age and overall health.

Nursing home infections

It is estimated that somewhere between one and three million infections occur each year in nursing homes. Residents can contract some of the same infections as hospital patients, including UTIs and respiratory infections. However, because of their advanced age and compromised immune systems, nursing home residents are more susceptible to infections and the serious complications that often accompany them. There are also some additional infections that are common in nursing homes. Due to the various changes in the skin as a result of aging, nursing home residents are prone to getting skin infections and soft tissue infections.

Pressure ulcers (bedsores) are a typical cause of skin infections. So is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Caused by staph bacteria, MRSA is resistant to normal antibiotic treatments, making it difficult to deal with. The infection often manifests itself as small red bumps or boils, which can turn into painful abscesses quickly. Although it starts out on the skin, the infection has the potential to get into the body and cause other infections that affect the heart, lungs, joints, and the blood.

For most people in good health Influenza is a mere inconvenience. For senior citizens, particularly those in nursing homes, it can be deadly. During outbreaks, more than five percent of influenza cases among nursing home patients are fatal.

Nursing homes have recently been devastated by COVID-19 with nursing home residents and staff deaths accounting for one-third of all U.S. coronavirus deaths.

Lawsuits involving infections

Healthcare professionals and facilities owe a duty to patients or to abide by the standard of care of a reasonable medical professional or facility under the same or similar circumstances. If this duty is breached and the result is a serious infection or other related injuries, a medical malpractice lawsuit may potentially be pursued. If the infection was the result of a design flaw in a medical device, a product liability claim may potentially be filed against the manufacturer.

It should be noted that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has granted health care professionals civil immunity for “good faith actions taken to fight the COVID-19 pandemic”. This immunity, however, does not offer legal protection to healthcare facilities.

Cases involving HAIs and infections can be very complex, requiring the assistance of an experienced attorney. If you or a loved one contracted a serious infection while in a hospital or nursing home, call (800) 760-1529 to speak with one of HKQ Law’s medical malpractice attorneys.

About HKQ Law

Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms that has had the privilege of representing more families in the courtroom than any other NEPA firm. The attorneys at HKQ Law have been honored as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Best Law Firms by US News and World Report, and have received the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbel. HKQ Law was recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, Jr., has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history. The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A Quinn, Jr. is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. In addition, Best Lawyers, in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report, has designated HKQ a Tier 1 Best Law Firm across multiple categories in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at www.HKQLaw.com or by calling (800) 760-1529.

				

 

As Hourigan, Kluger and Quinn addresses the concerns raised by COVID-19, the health and safety of our clients, employees and friends of the firm remain our top priority.


These are very difficult and scary times and we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and symptom free. We recognize that so many of you are understandably anxious about your health, the economic impact of this pandemic and all of the consequences of social isolation.

We also recognize that many of you are anxious about how the coronavirus is impacting the Court systems, our firm and your cases. Although all of our offices are closed, our firm has remained fully operational and we have initiated procedures that allow all of our attorneys and staff to work remotely from their homes. Each of us and our staff will respond to any emails and calls about your cases as quickly as possible.

Our Federal and State Courts have instituted significant changes in their calendars as a result of the coronavirus. Although most courthouses are closed to the public, and Hearings and Trials will be delayed for some time, there are matters that can proceed telephonically and by video. Despite these changes in the Court calendars, we are working diligently on your cases and are determined to do whatever we possibly can to assure an early and just recovery for you and your loved ones. Even under these difficult circumstances, we believe that "Nobody will work harder for you than we will."

With regard to new potential clients, we are not in a position to have an in-person new client meeting, but we will be conducting these initial meetings via phone. New potential clients should call us for a free telephone consultation at (570) 287-3000.

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