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Area Hospitals Warn Heart Surgery Patients of Infection Risk

UPDATE: On Tuesday, November 10th, Penn State Hershey Medical Center warned their open heart surgery patients that they could be at risk for the same infection.

If you had open heart or bypass surgery at Wellspan York Hospital between October 2011 and July 2015, you may be one of the patients at risk of serious infection or death.

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.”

Following the announcement of WellSpan’s 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.

NTM Infection Symptoms

▪ Joint Pain

▪ Fever

▪ Weight Loss

▪ Death, in serious cases

▪ Loss of energy

▪ Redness

▪ Heat and/or pus around the surgical incision

▪ Night sweats

▪ Joint and/or muscle pain

Patients who have been issued risk notifications from York Hospital should seek immediate medical attention and remain under medical observation. If you had open heart or bypass surgery at Wellspan York Hospital between October 2011 and July 2015, call us at Freeburn Law right now. You may be entitled to financial compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

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.

Failure to Warn

A company tasked with evaluating medical devices for safety and efficacy, ECRI, failed 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.”

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 overlooked. In cases involving medical mistakes or errors 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 know-how to protect your rights and help you get the money you deserve for your injuries.

Healthcare providers have an obligation to do everything in their power to protect the health and safety of patients under their care. At York Hospital, medical staff did not comply with the cleaning instructions for the heater-cooler devices and this resulted in multiple deaths.

If you had open heart or bypass surgery at Wellspan York Hospital or Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center between 2011 and 2015, call us at Freeburn Law right now at 717-777-7777.

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