According to projections based on a 2010 report from the Department of Health and Human Services, infections, surgical mistakes and other medical harm contribute to the deaths of 180,000 hospital patients a year. Of that number, a significant portion of injuries are caused by the failure to treat infection that develops in the hospital.
In its most recent issue, Consumer Reports measured hospitals for infections, including those that develop after surgery, those caused by central-line catheters in intensive-care units, or both. The article gathered its information from government and independent sources regarding 1,159 hospitals in 44 states, as well as interviews with patients, physicians, hospital administrators, and safety experts. The findings indicate that 1 in 20 hospitalized patients will develop an infection. Common causes included dirty instruments, improperly sterilized catheters or needles, and contaminated hands of health care professions.
Although some states require hospitals to report data for one or both types of infections, that requirement isn't nationwide. One safety expert estimates medical harm to be 1 of the 3 leading causes of death in the United States, but he agrees that the government doesn't adequately track it. Another public safety advocate characterizes the state of current health care and reporting as an epidemic.
Some hospitals have responded to the crisis with safety initiatives such as checklists to prevent infections. Rates of central-line bloodstream infections, for example, have dropped by 32% since 2008, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you developed an infection while you were hospitalized, an attorney can review your records and interview your care team to determine if your hospital injury was caused by negligence. In such event, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages.
Source: Consumer Reports Magazine, "How safe is your hospital?" August, 2012