Despite the efforts of New Jersey hospitals to focus on healing and restoring life, some patients face risks that are just as great, and in some cases even greater, during their hospital stay. Hospital staff does what it can to keep the environment healthy and sanitary, but some people actually experience health problems as a result of their time in a hospital.
Hospitals are run by people who are sometimes overworked and tired, which can lead to oversight and mistakes. Patients might also not be aware of the risks they face during their hospital time. Making matters worse, risks come in a variety of forms, so unless patients and hospital staff create a multi-pronged approach to reducing risk, things will fail to get better.
What problems do New Jersey hospitals face that put patients at risk?
- Errors in prescribing or administering medication: Unfortunately, doctors and nurses can make mistakes which sometime result in patients receiving the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of a medication.
- Deep vein thrombosis: This is one of the most common risks associated with surgery. It occurs when a blood clot forms deep in a vein, usually in a leg. If the clot breaks free, it can travel to the lungs, blocking oxygen flow and triggering a pulmonary embolism.
- Anesthesia complications: Anesthesia is much safer than it used to be, but there is still risk associated with its administration. Local anesthesia is considered safer than general anesthesia, so patients should discuss their specific situation with their doctor before moving forward.
- Post-operative bone fractures, hemorrhages, or hematomas
- Post-operative sepsis
- Post-operative wound dehiscence
- Accidental punctures or lacerations during a procedure
- Negative reaction to a transfusion
- Trauma related to obstetrics
- Pneumonia: Pneumonia can be extremely serious for some patients and is especially common in patients in the intensive care unit or on ventilators. The CDC estimates hospital pneumonia mortality rates at more than 33%.
- Other hospital infections
Common Hospital Infections
Developing an infection during a hospital visit or stay is quite common. The CDC reports more than 1.7 million healthcare related infections each year. The most common are urinary tract infections, followed by infections at the surgical wound site. Another common infection is MRSA, which is a staph infection that is resistant to antibiotics. One 2007 study found that one in 20 hospital patients either suffers directly from or becomes a carrier of an MRSA. Simple actions like hand washing can reduce the risk of MRSAs, as can administration of antibiotics, before and after surgery.
What are the Most Common Infection Issues in New Jersey Hospitals?
Some of the most common infections that occur in New Jersey hospitals include:
Central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI)
CLABSIs are primary bloodstream infections that are associated with the presence of a central vascular catheter. A central line is a tube that is placed into a patient’s large vein, usually in the neck, chest, arm or groin. The line is used to provide fluids and medication, withdraw blood, and monitor a patient’s condition. Bloodstream infections can occur when microorganisms such as bacteria and/or fungi enter, attach, and multiply on the tubing or in fluid administered through the tubing and then enter the blood.
There were 405 CLABSIs reported by New Jersey hospitals in 2011, approximately 150 fewer than anticipated. This included adult, pediatric critical/intensive care units, and neonatal intensive care units in each of the 72 acute care and specialty care hospitals in the state.
Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI)
Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTI) are the most commonly reported healthcare associated infections in acute care hospitals. There were 610 CAUTIs reported by New Jersey hospitals in 2011, approximately 15 fewer than anticipated. This includes adult cases in critical or intensive care units in each of the 72 acute care and specialty care hospitals in the state.
Surgical Site Infection (SSI)
A surgical site infection (SSI) is an infection that occurs in the area of the body where surgery took place. The SSI can be superficial or serious, if it affects layers under the skin, organs and/or implants. An infection must develop within 30 days of the procedure in order for the infection to be attributed to the surgical procedure. If the procedure involves an implant or transplant, monitoring for an SSI must occur for a year following the procedure.
In 2010, New Jersey hospitals reported a total of 66 CABG infections after open heart surgery, 49 HYST infections after hysterectomies, 77 KPRO infections after knee arthroplasty procedures. With more than 26,000 surgeries performed in 2010 in New Jersey hospitals, 192 SSIs were reported, which was 13 fewer than anticipated.
How Patients Can Protect Themselves
Though your assumption when you enter a hospital is that you will be safe and leave in better condition than you entered, you must still take responsibility for your health and well-being as best you can. You can do the same for your loved ones and ask that they do so for you. There is no reason to feel intimidated by doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other hospital staff. They are there to keep your safe, but it is ultimately your responsibility to protect your body. This means asking questions, getting clarifying information, and questioning anything that seems unusual or out of place.
Speaking up when you are in hospital care can be the difference between life and death, which is why medical experts encourage patients to speak up and to take action in whatever way necessary to avoid secondary health issues from a hospital stay.
How We Can Help
Would you like to know more about hospital care and what risks you face when admitted to a hospital? You have a right to know the risks you face during a hospital visit and what you can do to lower your risk when exposed to common infections in New Jersey hospitals. Additionally, you can contact us for information about your rights and to learn what you can do to protect your health and the health of your loved ones during or after a hospital visit.