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Hospitals Not Required to Report Superbug Outbreaks

An unseen killer in healthcare facilities poses a danger to the country’s most vulnerable patients. Superbugs are microbes that are resistant to the medication used to treat them. They can spread quickly throughout hospitals and nursing homes and have a high fatality rate in localized areas.

One expert suggests that infections acquired in hospitals are now the third-leading killer of Americans nationwide, yet the impact of outbreaks goes largely unreported. A new investigative report by Reuters exposes the country’s poor reporting system for medical facilities following a superbug outbreak.

Shrouded by the System

The emergence of the “superbug” as a new phenomenon in health care combined with restrictive privacy laws in hospitals makes it nearly impossible for loved ones to know what circumstances led the death of a family member in a nursing facility.

Doctors can write whatever they wish on a death certificate, potentially limiting a family’s options for medical malpractice compensation. Further, a lack of uniform federal policy on superbug reporting shrouds the data on the impact of outbreaks.

National Problem, Local Impact

The Center for Disease Control estimates that as many as 9,000 Californians die every year from superbug outbreaks. The elderly are particularly vulnerable as they are more prone to failing health, and, as a result, spend more time in care facilities.

Superbugs can be brought into nursing homes from residents who spent time in the hospital recently. Los Angeles County, in particular, was reported as a “high-prevalence region” for some superbugs from 2010 to 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Despite the dangers, the state of California does not require facilities to track deaths from infections acquired in the hospital. Experts suggest that superbug infections can be prevented through simple measures, such as hospital staff thoroughly washing their hands, wearing the proper protective equipment and disposing of hazardous biomaterials correctly.

How to Take Action

If you suspect your loved one’s death was caused by a superbug infection acquired in a care facility, you should request an independent medical examination from a coroner, says a county official quoted in the LA Times.

No one deserves to lose a loved one due to a hospital’s neglect. By seeking the help of a medical malpractice attorney, you can gain access to the knowledge and compensation you deserve following the death of a loved one.

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