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Illinois Works to Combat Preventable Bacterial Infections in Nursing Homes

Like hospitals, nursing homes are unique locations in which many individual with illnesses and ailments are brought together under one roof. While using these institutions is critical, moving in actually comes with certain increased health risks. Most notably, knowing that various contagions are passed from one person to another, there is a greater chance of already-sick individuals acquiring an infection caught while at the nursing home or hospital. This is a well-known problem and one of the key reasons that caregivers must be vigilantly about cleanliness, hand-washing, and similar matters.

IDPH Initiative
In fact, at the beginning of this year, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) launched an initiative to tackle this problem, often referred to generally as “health care-associated infections.” In particular, CRE infections (referring to carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriasceae) are particularly troublesome because they are becoming more common in these facilities and prove difficult to treat. Because CREs resist the work of typical antibiotics, those afflicted are often left nearly defenseless. Earlier this week, we reported on a mass outbreak of CRE connected to the Advocate Lutheran General Hospital.

As discussed in a recent report, enterobacteriaceae refers to a family of dozens of bacteria usually rooted in the digestive system. Many of these have grown to resist antibiotics, resulting in death rates of nearly 50% for residents unfortunate enough to contract them.

To help tackle the problem in the past, the IDPH worked with hundreds of Illinois hospitals a nursing homes in a unique pilot project. In addition, last November, the department began to track CRE infections via a new registry. The idea is that the tracking system will improve communication between healthcare entities, allowing better understanding the infection and options for tackling the problem.

Now, this year, the IDPH plans to coordinate a larger, state-wide effort to help all relevant facilities follow best-practices related to using antibiotics responsibly to quash the spread of these bloodstream infections which grow to resist the antibiotics.

Infection & Malpractice
Identifying negligent health care, in hospitals and nursing homes, involves a complex range of considerations. In most cases it is impossible to say without detailed investigation that any single injury or ailment was or was not caused by lapsed standards. Infections in particular are notoriously difficult to identify as connected to poor treatment. On one hand, the acquisition of bacterial infections may occur at random and nothing single action can usually be proven to have caused the acquisition. However, chronic problem with basic infection-control protocols can often lead to clear instances of resident-infection.

In most cases, legal liability only attaches in these matters when there are clear identifiers of neglect, like failure to sterilize equipment or failure to respond to mass outbreaks in a reasonable manner. For example, in the nursing home, seniors are uniquely vulnerable to acquiring these infections and suffering life-threatening injury as a result. For that reason, it is critical that caregivers follow clear safety procedures like washing hands, keeping living spaces clean, using clean equipment and more. Repeated failure to follow these basic steps is negligent
If you have questions about whether an injury or infection in your loved one can be traced to negligence, or if you were affected by the outbreak at Advocate Lutheran, please contact our neglect attorneys to see how we can help.

See Other Blog Posts:

Improving Quality of Care in Illinois Nursing Homes

Back to the Basics: Choosing a Nursing Home