Public Disclosure of Hospital-Acquired Infections Needed

hospital%20seats.jpgOften, when an infection outbreak occurs in a hospital, health investigators keep the outbreak quiet in order to encourage hospitals to self-report the situation. However, those policies, according to several researchers, place patients at greater risk of infection.

A recent series of infections at several hospitals has spotlighted the secrecy that occurs, when there are infectious outbreaks in American hospitals. In 2008, a hospital in Florida saw an outbreak of carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) that was ultimately linked to tainted duodenoscopes. Hospital officials reported the outbreak to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and discussed it with the Food And Drug Administration, but the outbreak was not publicly disclosed. Two years later, doctors investigated the problem in a medical journal.

A few months ago, a similar outbreak linked to contaminated duodenoscopes was traced to CRE outbreaks at the UCLA and Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Just as in the case of the Florida outbreak, the Los Angeles outbreaks were also linked to improperly sterilized duodenoscopes.

The FDA later admitted that it had been aware of a possible flaw in the design of these duodenoscopes that made them more difficult to sterilize, even when the sterilization was in accordance with manufacturer instructions. The federal agency has since moved to issue new guidelines to require the manufacturers of duodenoscopes to prove that the devices can be safely sterilized.

In the mean time, dozens of patients were placed at risk of contracting the potentially serious CRE infection, simply because the earlier outbreak in the Florida hospital was not properly disclosed. The FDA simply accepted the explanation that the contaminated duodenoscopes at the Florida hospital were not cleaned properly, and that this contributed to the outbreak. If the FDA had disclosed the problem in 2008, then hospitals would have been aware that the problem involved the design of the duodenoscopes, and could have taken appropriate action to protect patients.

These secrecy policies are now under fire, and patient safety advocates are calling for greater public disclosure whenever there are infectious outbreaks in the hospital rather than simply waiting for the hospitals to disclose infections themselves.

No one expects to suffer an infection when they enter a hospital for treatment. Unfortunately every year, thousands of patients suffer potentially serious infections, when they are hospitalized. If you developed an infection during your stay at a hospital, speak to a medical malpractice lawyer in Indiana about whether you have a viable claim for medical malpractice.