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Hospital Negligence in York, PA Leads to Life-Threatening Infections and Four Deaths

In one of the most tragic medical malpractice cases in recent news, four patients are dead and at least 1,300 more are at risk of developing a deadly infection after undergoing open-heart surgeries at WellSpan York Hospital in York, PA. The infections were contracted from a blood heating and cooling device used during the procedure. In a statement from Dr. Hal Baker who is in charge of infection control at WellSpan, he admitted that, “We weren’t following {cleaning instructions for the device} to the letter.” Another spokesperson for the hospital added that they sometimes failed to clean the devices with bleach. These admissions are shocking by themselves, but even more so considering that hospital infections are the leading cause of death in hospitals. Contact a PA Personal Injury Attorney.

FDA Issues Warning

The FDA has issued a warning about the link between heater-cooler devices and serious infection, as well as steps that medical providers and facilities can take to lessen the risks. Heater-cooler devices are typically used in cardiothoracic surgeries to maintain a healthy blood temperature in the patient. This is accomplished via water tanks in the devices that use temperature-controlled water in closed circuits. The water and patient do not have direct contact, however, it is possible for bacteria in the water to be transmitted into other parts of the device or into the air, and thus into the patient’s environment. The FDA has received 32 reports of infections associated with these devices between January 2010 and August 2015. Twenty-five of those cases were reported in 2015 alone.

Following the announcement of WellSpan’s devastating error, thousands of patients are in limbo waiting to see if they are in the beginning stages of infection or if one may develop in the coming days, weeks, or months. A bacteria called nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) is responsible for the infections and deaths and it grows extremely slowly, taking weeks or months for symptoms to appear.

Patients who have been issued risk notifications from York Hospital should seek immediate medical attention and remain under medical observation until they receive a clean bill of health. In addition, all notified patients should contact a trusted personal injury attorney without delay. Depending on the circumstances of each patient’s individual situation, the ability to obtain compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages may be crucial to a positive outcome.

This Isn’t the First Time Heater-Cooler Devices Resulted in Death

A similar incident occurred in South Carolina last year when four patients died as a result of tap water that had been contaminated with microbes. The source of the contaminated water was either a heater-cooler device or an ice machine in the operating room. In an interview with Philly.com last year, PA biomedical engineer Lawrence Muscarella asked, “Why are they retrospectively looking back to identify an outbreak?” He issued a written warning about the devices, but it did little to prevent their continued use. Two patients died shortly after the warning, one in August 2014 and another in March 2015.

Failure to Warn

A company tasked with evaluating medical devices for safety and efficacy, ECRI, neglected to warn providers of the risk of infection with heater-cooler devices. When asked about the failure to warn, ECRI executive director Bruce C. Hansel said, “It just hasn’t come up.”

Freeburn Law – PA’s Premiere Accident, Injury, and Workers’ Comp Law Firm

If you have been injured as a result of a medical provider’s negligence, we can help. As patients, we are taught to trust the advice and care of our doctors, nurses, and hospitals. Serious injury and death can occur when necessary precautions, such as properly sterilizing surgical equipment, are neglected. In medical malpractice cases there may be multiple parties involved, including manufacturers and distributors of faulty equipment, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, physicians, and other medical staff. It can be confusing and overwhelming, especially in the aftermath of a serious injury or illness, to know what to do. At Freeburn Law, our legal team has the experience, compassion, and tenacity to protect your rights and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

Healthcare providers have an obligation to do everything in their power to protect the health and safety of patients under their care. In the above case, medical staff did not comply with the cleaning instructions for the heater-cooler devices and their negligence resulted in multiple deaths. If you or a loved one has been injured due to medical error or negligence, contact Freeburn Law. We will assess the details of your case and help you determine the best strategy for moving forward. Call us today for a free consultation about your case.

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