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Secrecy Increases Risks of Deadly Hospital Infections

Patients are likely surprised to learn that while California hospitals are required to report infection outbreaks, they are not penalized when they fail to do so. In addition, most investigations into hospital infection outbreaks are kept confidential and rarely disclosed to the public.

While the goal is to encourage hospitals to report infections, the lack of transparency puts patients at a disadvantage when selecting and/or comparing health care facilities. As highlighted in a recent Los Angeles Times article, the public rarely learns which hospital is involved, how many patients got sick, or whether any died.

Information about potential outbreaks can also help prevent hospital-acquired infections at other facilities. The recent “superbug” infection is a prime example. If hospitals and regulators had been aware of previous outbreaks, they may have been able to more quickly identify that a design defect was responsible for the infections.

Several patients who underwent endoscopy procedures at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center contracted Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). Because CRE is not readily treated with antibiotics, it is fatal in half of all cases. The most recent outbreak claimed two lives.

After an initial investigation, the outbreak was linked to the inability to completely sterilize the special type of scope used in the procedures, known as a duodenoscope. In addition to the latest outbreak in California, similar hospital infections have claimed patient lives in Florida, Chicago and Seattle over the past several years.

In the wake of the latest incident, the FDA recently issued a medical device safety alert and published new guidelines for the reprocessing of reusable medical devices. According to experts, public disclosure of the earlier CRE outbreaks, which occurred as far back as 2008, could likely have saved lives.

If you or someone you love has suffered from medical negligence, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.