Hospital Malpractice Press Release: Weitz & Luxenberg Responds to Report on Hospital Bacteria Outbreak
February 1, 2007, New York, NY—An improperly sterilized medical instrument was behind a bacteria outbreak that sickened five babies and may have been responsible for the death of two, says a report by health regulators.
Inspectors from the California Department of Health Services (CDHS) determined last week that the respiratory therapy staff in the neonatal unit of White Memorial Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles failed to properly clean laryngoscope blades, which are used to insert breathing tubes. Health regulators identified the improper procedure as the culprit of the early December outbreak of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, which caused five babies to fall ill.
“Infections in hospitals are a scourge to the practice of good medicine—more really needs to be done to control it,” said Allan Zelikovic, head of the Medical Malpractice Unit and Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C. “Studies keep proving that simple sterile techniques would prevent untold death and suffering,” added Zelikovic, “not to mention money wasted in prolonged hospital stays in efforts to cure the illnesses caused.”
Weitz & Luxenberg recently prosecuted a case involving such infections in Buffalo, NY. The patient, who underwent hip replacement surgery, was exposed to three times the risk of infection when the hardware used to replace her hip was positioned improperly. Each time the orthopedic surgeon operated on her, she was exposed to a risk of infection. While the third surgery corrected the problem of alignment, the patient by then had developed a serious infection in her hip, necessitating removal of all the hardware. The patient survived treatment for the infection but was left crippled.
According to the CDHS report, hospital staff cleaned the laryngoscope blades with soap, tap water, and alcohol wipes. This procedure was contrary to the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper sterilization. White Memorial’s neonatal unit was closed down briefly due to the outbreak.
P. aeruginosa, a common bacterium, can spread rapidly through body contact, fluids and water. The bacterium is rarely dangerous for most people, but for premature babies and people with compromised immune systems, such as AIDS patients, it can be deadly. Of the roughly two million hospital-acquired infections each year, about 10 percent are caused by P. aeruginosa.
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