Hospital Stays and Infections: What to Know and When to Sue
One rarely looks forward to visiting a hospital (minus the birth of child), and most try to avoid having to stay as a patient for an extended period of time. However, some circumstances, surgery or serious illness being most common, require a person to reside in a hospital as he/she recuperates and heals. Hospitals exist to help people when they are sick or injured, and are expected to refrain from causing further harm. However, some people do leave the hospital worse off than when they entered, and may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. One issue facing those staying in the hospital for days on end is the risk of infection. The majority of hospital patients have weakened or compromised immune systems due to treatments like chemotherapy, the trauma of surgery or prolonged illness. Consequently, they are more prone to contracting infections, some of which can be deadly. Florida has one of the worst ratings nationally for hospital infections, so this danger has the potential to affect anyone.
The three most common types of infection a person faces during a hospital stay are surgical site infections, device-related infections and respiratory infections. Surgical site infections, as the name implies, occurs at or near the incision site the surgeon used to enter the body. These infections tend to derive from a lack of sanitation during the procedure or post-operative wound care. Device-related infections happen when devices inserted into the body, such as IVs, catheters or ventilators, are not kept clean. These infections are particularly dangerous and can result in death if not identified and treated in time. Finally, respiratory infections are contracted by breathing in viruses present in the air. With sick patients coming and going all time, this type of infection is the easiest to contract, and hardest to detect until it becomes serious.
When to Sue
Proving medical malpractice for infection-related injuries can present some difficulties in terms of proving when and how an infection occurred. If the infection is detected while the person is still in the hospital, proving the hospital is at fault is easier. But, if the infection is not apparent until the person is released and at home, determining the origin is challenging. On the other hand, if hospital personnel were responsible for cleaning and maintaining the wound or medical device, and an infection develops, consulting a medical malpractice attorney about filing suit is a good idea. In addition, state law requires hospitals to develop and follow sanitation- and infection-control plans, and if there is evidence these protocols were not followed, and infections resulted, the hospital may be liable for malpractice.
One important final point about suing hospitals for malpractice – Florida law has strict time limits and notification requirements that must be met in order to file a claim in court. All medical malpractice suits must be initiated within two years of the occurrence of the injury, or within two years of discovering the injury. Further, a lengthy pre-suit notification and investigation process must be followed before the right to file a lawsuit is granted. These complexities are just a few of the issues that highlight the need for an experienced medical malpractice attorney to handle these matters.
Contracting or developing an infection following a hospital stay can lead to deadly consequences and should not be taken lightly. If you suffered an infection following hospital-based care, contact a medical malpractice attorney to discuss the possibility of legal action. Hospitals have a duty to protect patients from the risk of infection, and if you believe you were injured because the hospital failed to so, consult the attorneys at the Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado to evaluate the merits of your case. Contact us today for a free consultation.