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California Hospitals Failing to Report Deadly Superbug Infections

While superbugs kill thousands of patients in California hospitals, many deadly infections go unreported. To protect patient safety, we need stronger federal and state regulations requiring hospitals to report deaths and injuries caused by hospital-acquired infections.

Last year, a series of deadly infections tied to tainted medical scopes made national headlines. However, those cases are just one example of a patient safety epidemic that claims thousands of lives every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 75,000 patients die each year due to infections that occurred during hospitalization.

As detailed in a recent Los Angeles Times article, as many as 9,000 Californians are believed to die each year from hospital-acquired infections. However, the exact number is unavailable because California does not require hospitals to report hospital-acquired conditions and does not track patient deaths linked to superbugs and other serious infections.

To further compound the problem, many doctors do not reference hospital-acquired infections when completing death certificates. The Los Angeles Times details the story of a 72-year-old California woman who sought treatment for a bleeding stomach ulcer and ultimately died of carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae (CRKP), a deadly bacterial infection she contracted after surgery. Her family was outraged when they learned that the hospital did not report the infection and listed her cause of death as respiratory failure and septic shock caused by her ulcer.

Despite the lack of data, superbugs are quickly becoming a national epidemic. As highlighted by the Los Angeles Times, a 2014 study found that infections (including those contracted inside and outside hospitals) would overtake heart disease and cancer as the leading causes of death in hospitals if the tallies were based on patients’ medical billing records, which show the actual condition being treated, rather than death certificates.

While superbug infections can be difficult to treat, they are largely preventable through basic infection control procedures, such as handwashing. However, because hospitals are not held accountable, they have little incentive to verify that all staff members are taking the appropriate steps to prevent infections.

“We, the community of physicians, had been watching these patients die and trundling them off to the morgue for years,” Dr. Barry Farr, former president of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, told the newspaper. “Now we’re in the eighth verse of the same song.”

At the Law Offices of Robert Vaage, our legal team has the experience required to pursue a complex California medical malpractice claim. We encourage you to contact a San Diego injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.