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Cross Contamination of Infectious Diseases in Hospitals

By John Macfarlane on May 05, 2016


A surgeon scrubbing and washingThe team at Younker Hyde Macfarlane always takes negligent parties to task, and we have built a strong reputation in the Salt Lake City area of fighting for the injured and their loved ones. This diligent legal representation is especially important in medical malpractice lawsuits, which take doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other medical personnel to task for negligence.

While many people think of surgical mistakes and misdiagnosis in medical malpractice cases, cross contamination is also a serious issue. Let's look at the problem of cross contamination by first considering a serious incident involving a Utah nurse and the spread of hepatitis C.

Cross Contamination at Layton and Ogden Hospitals

Last month, Daphne Chen of KSL reported on a high-profile case of cross contamination at Utah hospitals with major repercussions. An investigation by the Utah Department of Health found that at least 16 people were infected with hepatitis C by Elet Neilson, a former nurse employed at hospitals in Layton and Ogden; among those 16 confirmed to have been infected, one of them is a fellow health care worker. Neilson (who also goes by Elet Hamblin), was fired from McKay-Dee Hospital in 2014 for stealing opioid painkillers from her workplace.

Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about the case is that hepatitis C is only transmissible via the blood, which leaves a lot of questions about how these innocent people were infected by the disease. As Chen reported in her piece, officials have currently not speculated on how the virus was transmitted from Neilson to the patients, though in a 2009 case of a Denver nurse stealing opioid drugs and infecting patients with hepatitis C, it was found that the health care worker placed used needles and injection equipment back where they found it rather than disposing of it in order to avoid being caught.

Potential Sources of Cross Contamination

The above issue brings cross contamination to the forefront of our attention. There are many ways in which this can occur.

  • Poor Sterilization – When hospital equipment is poorly cleaned or improperly sterilized, this increases the chances of cross contamination.

  • Unwashed Linens and Bedclothes – Given the number of people who stay in hospitals, proper hygiene and cleanliness standards need to be in place.

  • Hospital Kitchens – Whether it's foodborne illnesses or problems with dirty dishes and utensils, safety and cleanliness need to be noted at all times.

  • Failure to Wash Hands – Having clean hands is crucial at medical facilities, and when medical professionals fail to have clean hands, it makes infections and other issues far more likely. This is especially crucial after nurses, orderlies, or doctors use computers on the premises given the dangers of keyboards.

  • Hospital Rooms Themselves – In addition to linens, floors, furniture, and other items in hospital rooms, the bedframe and other objects may be the source of infection or disease.

Ways of Preventing Cross Contamination

The best way for medical facilities to avoid cross contamination are to follow proper standards of sterilization, cleanliness, and precaution. Handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer is key to safety, as is proper cleaning of the hospital and linens and proper sterilization of all equipment used.

Given that the incident at the Layton and Ogden hospitals were the result of opioid drug abuse, it's crucial that fellow employees look out for patients and others and report any illicit behaviors or activities that place people in danger. Being attentive is a key to being safe.

Speak with the Attorneys at Younker Hyde Macfarlane

To learn more about your legal rights following a serious injury sustained in a hospital or medical facility, be sure to contact our team of personal injury lawyers today. The legal team at Younker Hyde Macfarlane will help you with your case.

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