Government investigation finds fault at Mission Hospital
The Joint Commission, an agency that is responsible for certifying healthcare facilities for Medicare and Medicaid, investigated Mission Hospital after four patients developed infections during operations. Among its other findings, the Joint Commission discovered that high temperatures and humidity in some of the hospital’s operating rooms may have contributed to the infections.
The Joint Commission made a preliminary decision in October 2014 to deny accreditation to Mission Hospital unless it brought its facilities into compliance with federal standards. In response, Mission Hospital closed its 14 operating rooms in Mission Viejo and Laguna Beach. The hospital reopened the operating rooms about a week later.
Mission Hospital sued for negligence and elder abuse
Mission Hospital acknowledges that its administrators were aware of the high humidity in at least one of its operating rooms months before the Joint Commission intervened, but continued to perform operations in that room. High humidity was attributed to a flaw in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of infected patients by Attorney Timothy J. Ryan and other attorneys alleges that Mission Hospital (operating jointly with St. Joseph Health System) and its executive officer knew that high humidity increases the risk that a patient will become infected during a surgical procedure but took no action to prevent that risk. The lawsuit also alleges that the hospital administration was aware of an insect infestation in the HVAC system but allowed surgeons to perform operations without correcting the problem.
The lawsuit alleges that patients were infected during surgical procedures conducted at one of the Mission Hospital campuses during the spring and summer of 2014. The lawsuit alleges that patients experienced health complications as well as pain and suffering due to the negligence of Mission Hospital and other parties. Among other legal theories, the lawsuit includes a claim of elder abuse on behalf of three patients who were over the age of 65.
Most infections of hospitalized patients are preventable
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 99,000 patients die every year from infections acquired in a healthcare setting. A study by doctors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Evidence Based Practice determined that, depending upon the type of infection, 55% to 70% of infections acquired in hospitals are preventable.
In addition to environmental conditions like those alleged in the lawsuit against Mission Hospital, hospitalized patients acquire infections from blood infusions, catheters, improperly sterilized equipment, and exposure to hospital personnel who have not followed hygienic procedures. While not every infection can be prevented, healthcare facilities have a duty to take all reasonable precautions to protect patients from becoming infected. When their failure to discharge that duty leads to significant illness or death, negligent healthcare providers should be held responsible.
Infected patients may be entitled to compensation
According to the Pennsylvania study, preventable infections acquired during hospitalization add more than two weeks to a typical hospital stay and result in extra medical bills of more than $150,000. Some infections produce recurring health problems or long-term disabilities. About 12% of infected patients die, compared to the average death rate of 2.3% for hospitalized patients who do not become infected.
Patients are entitled to compensation if they experience serious harm as the result of acquiring an infection that could have been prevented. In appropriate cases, patients can receive reimbursement of lost income, payment of past and future medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering, and other awards of money damages.
If you were infected during a surgical procedure conducted at Mission Hospital in Orange County, contact the Law Offices of Timothy J. Ryan immediately. You may be entitled to join the pending lawsuit or to file a separate claim seeking compensation for any serious illness or loss that you suffered as a result of the infection. If a family member died from an infection acquired at Mission Hospital, you may be entitled to wrongful death compensation.
Infections in other Orange County hospitals
At about the time it threated to withdraw its accreditation of Mission Hospital, the Joint Commission also warned St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange that it was in violation of federal standards governing the prevention of infections. A more recent warning in May 2015, based on a California Department of Public Health patient complaint survey, again threatened to terminate the federal government’s Medicare Provider Agreement if St. Joseph’s Hospital did not remedy unspecified conditions that threaten the health and safety of patients.
If you were infected during a stay in any hospital in Orange County or Southern California, you should seek legal advice. Call Timothy J. Ryan & Associates medical malpractice attorneys at (800) 838-6644 to request a free evaluation of your case. Be aware that strict time limits apply to claims against healthcare providers. Waiting too long may cause you to lose your right to seek compensation for your injuries.