Cleanliness Can Prevent Medical Negligence Compensation Claims

by Hellen Greek

When we think about all the different things that can go wrong in a hospital, and how complicated and confusing healthcare can be, it's surprising to think that a large number of medical negligence compensation claims arise when doctors and nurses fail to adhere to basic hygiene rules.

When medical negligence claims involve infections, the factor that led to the infection is frequently dirtiness and a failure to adhere to hygiene regulations.

What infections are regularly seen in medical negligence claims?

According to research, some of the most common healthcare-associated infections include:

- Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infection that causes inflammation of the liver. It is estimated that around one-third of the global population has been infected with it at one time, and although 95% of people who become infected as adults will survive the infection, it can lead to jaundice, cirrhosis, liver cancer, vomiting and death.

It is thought that Hepatitis B could be between 50 and 100 times as infectious as HIV, and the primary route of infection is exposure to infectious bodily fluids.

- Rubella

Rubella, also known as German measles, is generally contracted by children, who usually make a full recovery in a few days. It is more dangerous when contracted by adults, but generally it just takes older people longer to recover.

While vaccination programmes have reduced the number of people susceptible to rubella in the UK, there are still occasional outbreaks, and in many developing countries the disease is still endemic.

Rubella is a viral infection that enters humans through the respiratory tract, causing headaches, conjunctivitis, joint pains and a distinctive rash.

- Adenovirus

Adenoviruses are responsible for a large proportion of respiratory tract infections, such as ear infections, tonsillitis and conjunctivitis. Towels and other infected objects can lead to these infections, and they are seen in medical negligence claims when the infection is blamed on unhygienic healthcare facilities.

While most people do not suffer prolonged personal injuries and quickly recover, people with immunodeficiency can die as a result of adenovirus. In rare cases, these viruses can even kill healthy people.
Antiviral drugs are not used to treat adenovirus infections, and treatment therefore focuses on alleviating the symptoms of the condition.

- Measles

Measles is highly contagious and is spread through respiration. While most people make a complete recover, complications can include encephalitis, bronchitis and the frequently-fatal panencephalitis. In the UK, measles has become relatively rare due to widespread vaccination, and children have a considerably better prognosis from the disease than adults.

However, many people have not been vaccinated against the condition and regional epidemics still occur. Healthcare facilities should maintain high standards of cleanliness to ensure they do not become hubs of measles transmissions, and can be liable in medical negligence claims should they fail to protect the public from this infectious disease.

- Mycobacterium

Mycobacterium can cause serious health problems including leprosy and tuberculosis. While some infections can be asymptomatic, when the infection takes hold it can be incredibly difficult to treat. This bacterium is transmitted through food, air and water, and the best way to prevent them from taking hold in healthcare facilities is to adhere to strict hygiene standards.

Keeping a hygienic healthcare facility

Avoiding medical negligence claims by keeping a safe healthcare facility should therefore be a key priority for anyone involved in the healthcare sector. The following steps might seem obvious, but these issues are regularly seen in clinical negligence compensation claims.

- Hand washing

Washing hands before touching patients and using latex gloves when performing medical procedures is vital if healthcare facilities are to avoid medical negligence claims. Workers should also wash their hands as soon after coming into contact with potentially infectious materials as possible.

- Disinfecting, cleaning and sterilising

Sterilising effectively kills almost all microorganisms and is considerably more effective than disinfection. Anything that comes into contact with patients, such as surgical tools, should be properly sterilised to ensure patients do not suffer personal injuries due to infections.

- Personal protective equipment

Some of the personal protective equipment that can prevent infections includes gloves, gowns, goggles, shoe covers and surgical masks. Creating a physical barrier between patients and workers can significantly reduce the likelihood of infections spreading.

- Antimicrobial surfaces

There are a range of products available that destroy microbes within a very short period of time, enabling call buttons, trays, bed rails and bathrooms to be kept hygienic and sterile with little effort.

This article is approved for informational purposes only. It is not intended to take the place of competent local legal counsel.

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