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New York hospital-acquired infections decreasing but still deadly

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

When many people in Manhattan County, New York, think of medical malpractice, infections acquired in a hospital setting may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Sadly, though, hospital-acquired infections are a serious problem that can have financial and physical costs, and they are not as uncommon as many people believe; the CDC estimates that 1 of 20 people contract an infection during a hospital stay.

A recent report indicates that the rate of hospital-acquired infections in New York is decreasing. Although this achievement is worth acknowledging, it is still important for patients to understand the real risk that hospital-acquired infections pose.

Hospital infections take a high toll

The statistics involving hospital infections are enough to alarm anyone. A study published in 2010 in the Archives of Internal Medicine reflects the extent of the problem. As described in a Science Daily press release, some facts about the study are:

  • Researchers analyzed 69 million hospital discharge records.
  • Researchers focused on patients who developed pneumonia or sepsis, conditions that often arise from hospital-acquired infections.
  • In 2006, 48,000 people died in association with these conditions.
  • Almost 20 percent of patients who developed sepsis did not survive, while 11 percent of the patients who contracted pneumonia were lost.
  • On average, a sepsis infection extended a patient’s hospital stay by 11 days, while pneumonia added 14 days.

The press release also reports that in 2002, the CDC estimated the number of annual fatalities from hospital-acquired infections to be 99,000. On its website, the CDC states that the same year, an estimated 1.7 million hospital-acquired infections occurred.

Even if hospital infections are caught early and properly treated, these infections can significantly increase expenses and other complications for patients. This is why it is important for patients to seek recourse when a hospital is to blame for the contraction or improper treatment of an infection.

Hospital-acquired infections in New York

The rate of hospital-acquired infections is actually declining in New York, according to a New York State Department of Health report released in December 2013. Since 2007, the incidence of central-line associated bloodstream infections and surgical site infections has decreased. Infections involving one strain of clostridium bacteria have increased in hospitals that utilize a newer, more advanced testing method and decreased in hospitals that employ an older method.

Still, a few comments in the report reveal a troubling truth. The increase in bacterial infections is likely due to more infections being successfully detected with the more sensitive testing method, according to the report. This brings up the important question of whether lower infection rates reflect improvements in medical care or poor detection methods, and whether the rates reported are a fairly accurate reflection of reality.

Although advances in research, technology and medical protocol can reduce the likelihood of a patient contracting a hospital-acquired infection, these infections do still occur. People who are affected by hospital infections need to recognize that, in many cases, these infections stem from substandard care. This means that a medical professional may be held liable for the expenses, injuries or suffering associated with an infection.

Anyone who has been affected by a hospital infection should speak with an attorney about the circumstances of the infection and the possibility of seeking compensation.

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