14 May 2015
Cancer Patient Dies After Hospital Superbug Infection
A woman who was battling cancer died after she was exposed to a potentially lethal infection during her treatment in hospital.
Despite receiving a positive prognosis whilst undergoing chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukaemia, the 68 year-old woman died only five days after catching the bug at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.
The drug-resistant bacteria ‘pseudomonas aeruginosa’ was subsequently found in the shower drain in her hospital room as well as in the water running from the taps.
The bacteria was also found in other rooms in the Haematology/Oncology unit and raw sewage was discovered on the floor on and around the shower drain in the adjoining room to hers.
After doctors became concerned for the woman’s health she was transferred to another hospital while the contaminated rooms were cleaned.
Although the potentially deadly bacteria was specifically detected in her room, doctors inexplicably failed to include any notes along with her transfer detailing her exposure to the infection.
After an outbreak of the same infection in 2010, the Royal Sussex County Hospital adopted new precautionary measures which included a thorough review of cleaning rounds.
However, it was later revealed that following an internal Serious Incident Investigation, only a third of hospital housekeepers at the time of the woman’s death were actually cleaning to the required standards.
The woman’s husband is now suing Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust for clinical negligence.
Last month, the Trust pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of endangering patients over a period of more than six years after another woman died as a result of a separate outbreak of legionella – the bacteria that causes legionnaires’ disease.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a fairly common bacteria and healthy people are rarely affected. Having said that, the bug has become a major cause of healthcare-related infections particularly for anyone with a compromised immune system such as those undergoing cancer treatment.
It is clear that serious errors were made regarding the cleaning of the unit this woman was receiving her treatment in. Tragically, as a result, her husband has had to endure the unimaginable heartbreak of losing his wife.
An estimated 5,000 people die each year in the UK due to infections they pick up in hospital, with the number of fatal hospital acquired infections complicated by antimicrobial resistance (AMR) expected to increase markedly over the next 20 years.
According to an official Government forecast, up to 80,000 people in Britain could die in a single outbreak of an infection due to a new generation of superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics.
The National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies report concludes that dangers posed by AMR present a particularly serious issue that could lead to the prospect of even minor surgery and routine operations becoming high-risk procedures.
Stephen Jones is a Senior Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
Our Hospital Negligence Solicitors can provide immediate legal representation and rehabilitation support anywhere in England, Scotland and Wales and offer hospital and home visits for people who cannot attend one of our offices.
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