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Orthopedic surgeon attributes higher rates of staph infections to hospital budget cuts

The dangers of contracting a serious staph infection, such as methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or methicillin susceptible staphylococcus aureus (MSSA), is always very real and something that hospitals should always be fully prepared to handle/prevent.

While many staph infections are caused by microorganisms found on the skin and not attributable to hospital negligence, others can be caused by microorganisms found outside the body, meaning they can be found on contaminated surgical instruments.

To illustrate, consider a recent case out of Wisconsin, where five patients are currently suing a Milwaukee area hospital for contracting staph infections during surgery.

What makes this particular case so interesting is that one of the witnesses who testified on behalf of one of these five patients was actually a former hospital employee who had previously alerted officials there of the rising rates of infection and who claims to have made a rather startling discovery regarding the sterilization of surgical instruments.

In 2008, Dr. James S., an orthopedic surgeon, noticed that rates of surgical infection in his Milwaukee hospital began to climb rather rapidly. Suspecting that contaminated surgical instruments were to blame, he began making a series of inquiries to try to locate the source of the problem.

As it turns out, the hospital was in the process of building a brand new $417 million campus and had to institute a series of cuts to remedy budget problems.

Based on this information, Dr. S. suspected - and continues to suspect - that the hospital cut funding to the infection control department in order to save money, a situation that led to potentially contaminated surgical instruments.

"We learned about [the budget cuts] after the fact, only when we started asking questions and problems started cropping up," he said.

After forming his suspicions, Dr. S. began warning prospective patients about the rising rates of infection at the hospital, a practice that resulted in a stern rebuke from hospital administration.

"Those who are aware of healthcare services review information are obligated to keep it confidential and not disclose it to anyone, " read the letter.

The hospital eventually went so far as to threaten to sue Dr. S. for slander.

Still, he remains steadfast in his beliefs regarding the reduced funding to the infection control department and indicated as such while on the witness stand.

"In a very short period of time - in July, August, September and October - there were infections," he said.

Stay tuned for more from our Texas medical malpractice blog ...

If you were seriously injured by hospital negligence or a surgical error, you should strongly consider contacting an experienced legal professional.

This post was for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal or medical advice. Names have been withheld to protect the identity of the parties involved.

Related Resources:

Surgeon blames hospital for alleged dirty instruments (Outpatient Surgery)

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