Most medical procedures carry risks of acquiring an infection. Indeed, about 1 in 10 patients admitted to hospital will acquire an infection during the course of their admission. As infection can have devastating consequences for patients, hospitals are required to provide an environment which minimises the risk of infection to patients, healthcare workers and visitors. This requires the establishment and implementation of an adequate infection control programme which should include the establishment of an appropriate and qualified Infection Control Team within the hospital, the production of detailed infection control policies, the education of staff in best infection practice, the surveillance and audit of infections when they occur and the deployment of adequate resources and facilities to ensure adequate standards of practice are maintained. Even with the best facilities and practises, infections can still occur as no preventive measures are 100% reliable.
Accordingly, the acquisition of an infection during a period of hospitalisation is not necessarily evidence of negligence and will not be so if an adequate infection control programme was in place and had been adequately implemented in the hospital in question.
Surgical site infections generally occur when an infected organism is introduced into the surgical site during an operation. The risk of infection varies between patients and the type of procedure which is being performed. It may be negligent for a surgeon to continue to operate if infection rates are known to be above the generally acceptable threshold for that particular procedure or if an unusual infection occurs which may indicate that there is a significant infection control issue that places future patients at increased risks of being exposed to that infection.
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If you have contracted an infection associated with a hospital admission, it is important to seek advice in relation to whether you may have grounds to bring a legal claim* for compensation in respect of your injuries. If you were not provided with sufficient information in relation to the risks of infection associated with your proposed treatment in order to provide informed consent or if the circumstances indicate a failure to implement an adequate infection control programme, a legal claim may be able to be brought in order to fund remedial treatment in respect of your current condition and to obtain appropriate compensation for the pain, suffering and loss of amenities which you have experienced and which will continue to affect you in the future as a consequence of the inadequate treatment you may have received.
Ivor Fitzpatrick & Company has investigated many cases of infections acquired in hospitals in order to identify whether their occurrences were the result of substandard infection control practices, poor operative performance and/or hygiene practices or of inadequacies in the post-operative care. Infection cases are often difficult and complex because they can occur without any inadequacies in the standard of care and it is therefore generally necessary to prove the source and manner of transmission of the infection in order to demonstrate that it would have been prevented if adequate care had been provided.
We have successfully negotiated settlements in cases of post-operative infections, often where other deficiencies in the care and management afforded to the patient have allowed inferences to be drawn that adequate infection control procedures were unlikely to have been followed. These cases require the close involvement of experts in the fields of microbiology and infection control and a very detailed examination of the policies and practices of the health institution concerned. In some cases, the past history of the surgeon and the institution involved are important sources of evidentiary material which can demonstrate a failure to respond adequately to earlier cases of a similar nature.