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Hospital Error Causes Superbug to Infect Former Patients

Superbug Acquired at Seattle Hospital Causes Superbug to Maim, Kill Former Patients in Hospital Error

hospital errorDue to hospital error, a drug-resistant superbug spread rapidly through a Seattle, Washington hospital and infected 32 former patients, 11 of whom died from the infection.

Between 2012 and 2014, hospital error around cleaning practices at Virginia Mason Medical Center caused 32 patients to catch Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, a “superbug” that is resistant to many forms of antibiotics. The report follows similar incidents of patient harm and hospital error in Pittsburg in 2012, and Chicago in 2014.

At Virginia Mason, improper cleaning of endoscopes used examine and treat liver and pancreatic illnesses led to the superbug being passed from patient to patient. Scopes can be used for thousands of procedures per year, so proper cleaning is extremely important. While the scopes at Virginia Mason were reportedly sterilized to existing medical standards before each use, the sterilization was not enough to prevent spread of an antibiotic resistant bacterium.

“This is a national problem,” Virginia Mason Medical Center said in a statement. “We determined that the endoscope manufacturer’s, as well as the federal government’s, recommended guidelines for processing the scopes are inadequate.”

One simple extra step to keeping the scopes clean is to wait 48 hours before using them again.

Doctors are still not fully clear on what role the infection played in the 11 deaths, as the patients were immunocompromised and sick from other physical ailments before they became infected with the superbug. However, to many pathologists, it is clear that the infection did nothing to help, and hospital error is primarily at fault.

“My concern now is that when we talk about there being a risk, there is no longer just a risk. It’s a reality. People are dying from it,” said Lawrence F. Muscarella, a Philadelphia infection-control expert who has been monitoring endoscope-associated superbug outbreaks for several years. He is concerned that existing cleanliness practices will not be enough to prevent major outbreaks and hospital-acquired infections in the future.

“People have a right to know that’s intrinsic or inherent,” said Art Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “If my spouse died because of an infected piece of medical equipment or dental equipment, I would like to know. I would even like to examine a lawsuit.” He believes that public health officials should have notified the public sooner about the possibility of a hospital acquired infection or hospital error that led to the superbug outbreak.

The Strom Law Firm Can Help Those Suffering from Hospital Errors

Each year, nearly 100,000 people die as a result of surgical errors, and many more suffer devastating personal consequences. Surgical errors, hospital acquired infections, and medical malpractice can ruin you and your loved ones’ lives, demanding time away from work and thousands of dollars in medical bills. If you or a loved one has suffered pain, patient death, and continuing health problems after surgery, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. We offer free consultations, so contact us today about your medical malpractice concerns. 803.252.4800.



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