When you have an injury or illness and need the attention of a doctor or hospital, you are trusting that all measures are taken to ensure that the care you receive is up to par on quality and safety. Unfortunately, sometimes doctors or hospitals make mistakes, as has recently been illustrated after contaminants were found in a Colorado hospital, highlighting the importance of quality and infection control.
Quality and infection control are incredibly important to ensuring the health and safety of healthcare providers, patients, and visitors. Read on to learn more about what investigators found in one Colorado hospital, and what this highlights about quality and infection control for healthcare providers across the country.
If you have questions or concerns about infections, surgical or medical mistakes, or medical malpractice, contact Brown, Christie & Green to speak with one of our medical malpractice attorneys.
Contaminants Found in Colorado Hospital
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) conducted an investigation into a Denver-based hospital between February and April 2018. The investigation was initiated after the CDPHE was made aware of a lapse in infection control procedures. During the investigation, it was discovered that the hospital was not properly sanitizing surgical instruments.
Between January 2017 and April 2018, there were 76 reported instances of contaminated instruments or trays being used. The CDPHE report noted that some surgical procedures were delayed or interrupted due to improperly sanitized instruments.
Upon a closer review, surgical instruments were found to be contaminated with bone, blood, hair, cement, dead bugs, and other contaminants not identified. The lapse in quality and infection control was found to be caused by human error, and placed an alarming number of patients at risk for possible infections.
At the conclusion of the investigation in April, officials notified around 5,800 spine and orthopedic surgery patients that they may be at risk for developing a surgical site infection. Further, patients may have been exposed to harmful diseases, such as hepatitis B or C, or HIV. The CDPHE also noted that the hospital failed to report a number of infections related to the infection control lapse.
In response to the investigation and CDPHE findings, the hospital prepared a plan of correction. The CDPHE approved the plan, and is still determining whether sanctions will be issued against the hospital. It is not known whether any patients exposed to the contaminants have reported infections or other medical conditions related to the surgical instruments.
Importance of Quality and Infection Control
One of the most important elements of quality and safety for hospitals is infection control. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that every day, one in 25 hospital patients develop a healthcare-associated infection (HAI). In 2014, a HAI Prevalence Survey revealed that as many as 722,000 people develop HAI’s every year. Of those, around 75,000 patients die as a result of the HAI or infection-related complications during hospitalization.
According to the CDC, the most common “sites” for HAI’s to develop includes:
- Gastrointestinal illness
- Urinary tract infections
- Primary bloodstream infections
- Surgical site infections (inpatient surgery)
- Other infections
Most HAI’s occur in the general hospital environment, rather than in the intensive care unit, which is a common misconception.
Quality and Infection Control Standards
To reduce this number, the CDC offers guidelines and infection control standards for patient care, healthcare workers, and medical equipment. Among the best infection prevention strategies are the following offered by experts and the CDC:
- Hand Hygiene: The CDC states that hand hygiene is one of the simplest ways of preventing the development or spreading of infections. Hands and equipment should be cleaned before and after any contact with patients or medical equipment.
- Environmental Hygiene: Surfaces are a common source of transmitting infections. Healthcare environments should routinely be cleaned, including surfaces of counters, trays, tables, beds, and bathroom equipment.
- Screening Patients: Before any surgical procedure, patients should be screened for the presence of infection. Patients found to have an infection should be treated prior to, and during, surgical procedures. Patients with similar types of infections should also be housed together to prevent cross-infection.
- Vaccinations: Sometimes, infections are spread via healthcare staff. Because healthcare providers come into contact with so many patients and medical conditions, it is important that they are vaccinated to prevent contracting dangerous infections or diseases.
- Proper Antibiotic Use: According to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, improper use of antibiotics, or overuse of antibiotics can actually increase the risk of contracting an infection. When antibiotics are used, but are not necessary, the patient may develop something of a resistance to them, thus increasing the risk of spreading or worsening infections.
- Care Coordination: For healthcare providers, care coordination is an important element of preventing infections. Healthcare providers, especially during surgical procedures, must be diligent in communicating relevant information to other providers and the patient’s medical records.
In terms of sterilization, the CDC offers specific guidelines for:
- Instrument sterilization procedures (steam, chemical, low-temperature)
- Environmental surface cleaning and disinfecting
- Storing sterilized equipment
- Monitoring sterilization machines/equipment
- Quality control
Quality control is one of the biggest concerns for hospitals in terms of infection control. It is vital that hospitals properly train staff, provide proper sterilization gear, and enforce policies and procedures.
Infections and Your Legal Rights
If you have developed an infection while in the hospital, or following a surgical procedure, you may be wondering whether your healthcare providers took every step necessary to ensure your safety and health. At Brown, Christie & Green, we work with clients in your situation to determine whether negligence was a factor in the development of an infection. If so, we will explore your rights and options to pursue compensation and ensure accountability of those who are responsible.
To find out more about your legal rights, fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced medical malpractice attorneys.