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Medical Malpractice Claims Due To Hospital Acquired Infections Increasing Again

The federal government imposed fines on 751 hospital facilities last year for problems involving patient infections and injuries. Facilities in many states saw reductions in Medicare payments; however, Connecticut and Delaware were the worst offenders with roughly 50% of facilities being penalized. In New York and Nevada, approximately 40% incurred penalties. Maryland, which uses an alternate Medicare-type system, is excluded from these enforcement measures. These are all financial consequences of the Affordable Care Act’s quality control initiative called the Hospital-Acquired Conditions Reduction Program. 

Medicare Criteria

Medicare evaluates the nearly 3,300 general hospitals and issues the penalties to the lowest ranked 25% of facilities. Some of the factors that compose the ratings include the percentage of infections among patients undergoing colon surgery, hysterectomies, and urinary catheters. Other considerations include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, as well as Clostridium difficile (C-diff). These are all considered as hospital-acquired conditions, or HACs. One trend seems to be that hospitals used for teaching and those who primarily service lower-income patients are the most likely to have these types of problems.

Recent Malpractice Case: Bacterial Infection

Marites Campano was recently awarded $24.7 million in a medical malpractice case against Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Campano, whose husband is in the U.S. Navy, was at the facility to deliver her daughter. Several hours later she developed a fever and it was determined that she had acquired a bacterial infection that ultimately resulted in sepsis. Campano has since been coping with permanent damage to her kidneys. The claim stated that the medical staff had failed in diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics. For the remainder of her life she will require immunosuppressant medication, which is used to weaken the immune system within the body.

Recent Malpractice Case: Central Nervous System Infection

Joan Simmons, age 58 at the time, was recently awarded $18 million in a medical malpractice case against St. Joseph’s/Candler Medical Group, Dr. Sarah Barbour, and the Southcoast Medical Group in Savannah, Georgia. Simmons acquired a harmful infection that attacks the central nervous system through the spine. It was alleged that negligence in making a diagnosis and beginning treatment led to her now being in a wheelchair due to having minimal leg function. The defense stood by their belief that Barbour delivered treatment that was completed according to the proper care standards.

Hospital Exposure

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are caused by contaminants that someone comes in contact with. Other terms that are frequently used to describe them include “secondary” infections or “nosocomial” infections. Other facilities with the potential for risks and exposure include nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, various forms of clinics and other longer-term care sites. Most facilities have established detailed administrative procedures that are now in place to prevent infections. Some keys to prevention include sterilizing medical tools and devices, as well as having the staff diligently wash their hands. When these measures are not consistently taken there tends to be notable adverse consequences.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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