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Hospital-acquired infections remain a serious problem in Ohio

Hospital-acquired infections are a major healthcare problem in Ohio and nationally, which cause numerous patient injuries and deaths each year.

The Akron Beacon Journal recently published an article reporting that the number of medical malpractice claims in Ohio hit a new low in 2012, the last year for which the numbers are available. Unfortunately, the fact that fewer people are filing medical malpractice claims does not necessarily mean that the number of medical malpractice acts and omissions has declined in Ohio. In a publication from the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University, it is noted that, for one reason or another, the majority of medical malpractice injuries do not result in a claim for compensation being filed.

Medical News Today says that "one in every three hospitalized patients" in the United States "encounters a hospital error." One of the most common hospital errors that cause patient injuries and deaths are unhygienic practices that cause hospital-acquired infections ("HAIs"). The Ohio Department of Health believes that HAIs affect up to 10 percent of Ohio's hospitalized patients annually and result in thousands of infections. Two of the most common types of HAIs are: (1) surgical site infections and (2) central line infections.

A surgical site infection is an infection that occurs after surgery in the part of the body where the surgery took place. According to Cincinnati Children's Hospital, surgical site infections have been linked to a number of patient condition complications. Among problems caused by surgical site infections are lengthier hospital stays and the likelihood of spending time in an intensive care unit. Complications from surgical site infections expose patients to both additional health risks and increased medical costs.

Central lines deliver medication, nutrition and vital fluids to intensive care patients. If bacteria enter the bloodstream through the central line, the result is often death or serious injury. According to Consumer Reports, central line infections are responsible for 30 percent of all HAI deaths. If one survives a central line infection, it often means weeks of enduring treatments and adverse side effects. Consumer Reports observes that central line infection safety precautions require equipment "no more complex" than hand soap, antiseptics and sterile hospital garb.

Hospitals can prevent HAIs

HAIs are largely preventable. Consumer Reports finds that, in order to avoid central line infections, health care workers should wash their hands with soap and water and then proceed to disinfect the patient's skin. Health care workers should also wear sterile gloves, caps and gowns when inserting the central line catheter. Unused catheters should be removed since the risk of infection increases the longer a catheter remains in place.

As for surgical site infections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urge doctors and nurses to take the following precautions:

  • Clean hands with an antiseptic agent just before the surgery.
  • Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol rub before and after caring for a patient.
  • Wear special masks, gowns and gloves during surgery to keep the surgical area clean.
  • Give the patient antibiotics before starting surgery.
  • Clean the skin at the site of the patient's surgery with a special soap that kills germs.

Seeking legal counsel

Hospitals could easily take better precautions against HAIs if they desired to do so. If you suspect that you or a loved one has been injured due to an HAI, you are advised to call an attorney who handles medical malpractice cases as soon as possible. Malpractice cases are typically complex and it is advisable to talk to an attorney who knows how to properly interpret hospital records and can advise you on your options for seeking compensation.

Keywords: hospitals, infections, Ohio