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Sepsis and Sepsis Shock Numbers Skyrocket in California Hospitals

As Covid swept through California in 2020, more and more individuals and families were forced to rely on hospital stays to seek medical treatment. However, during and following the pandemic, deadly hospital stay-associated infections increased dramatically.

“Sepsis is a leading cause of death in hospitals. It’s been true for a long time — and it’s become even more true during the pandemic,” said Dr. Kedar Mate, president and chief executive of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

A February article from the Los Angeles Times examines the data collected by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the California Department of Health Care Access and Information, publicizing the dramatic increases in deaths and severe sepsis diagnoses within California medical facilities. Data shows that from 2014 to 2021, occurrences of severe sepsis in California have doubled, with the LA Times reporting a 46% increase in “hospital-acquired” cases between 2019 and 2021 and the number of in-hospital severe sepsis-related deaths up 15.2 percent within the same timeframe. There was a 24.2 percent rise in California hospital-acquired cases from 2020 to 2021, at the height of the pandemic.

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis and septic shock (dangerously low blood pressure) are life-threatening conditions caused by the body’s response to infection that causes high heart rate, fever, or fast breathing. The infection can potentially damage organs and if not treated in an appropriate and timely manner, can result in devastating health outcomes including debilitating injuries, disabilities, stroke, or death.

While some patients seek medical attention for these signs and symptoms, very often sepsis is contracted within a medical setting. Sepsis can be treated easily if symptoms are recognized early. Patients who suffer harm due to medical negligence or because they did not receive the acceptable care required to prevent the development or worsening of sepsis may be able to take legal action against their medical providers.

Common causes of Hospital-Associated Infections

For many people in California, the pandemic created extended hospital stays with stringent confinement and added equipment for aiding against the virus. Over-crowded and understaffed hospitals potentially left less time than necessary for doctors and nurses to provide care to patients, a factor that can be attributed to increased infections.

“Lines, tubes, being here a long time — all put [patients] at risk for infection. The longer you’re in the hospital, the more things happen to you. You’re immobilized, so you have a risk of developing pressure ulcers” — not just on the backside, but potentially on the face under an oxygen device — “and the wound can get infected,” said Dr. Maita Kuvhenguhwa, an attending physician in infectious disease at MLK Community Healthcare.

The CDC warns that individuals with preexisting conditions, weakened immune systems, and those who have previously had sepsis have a higher chance of contracting a life-threatening infection in a hospital. However, it remains the responsibility of the medical team to recognize sepsis and septic shock and administer appropriate care.

Moving in the Right Direction

According to the LA Times article, other states have begun implementing systems to combat hospital staffing shortages. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Jefferson Health system adopted a predictive modeling system that uses electronic records to alert if a patient has sepsis and to streamline treatment plans. Since implementing its new system in 2021, Jefferson Health reports a 15% decline in sepsis-related hospital deaths.

When to Seek Help from an Attorney

When entering a hospital, the expectation is that you will receive professional, quality care. If you or a family member contracted sepsis and was not properly treated, resulting in harm, reaching out to an experienced medical malpractice attorney can be your best chance at holding the healthcare system accountable.

How We Can Help

Bostwick & Peterson offers decades of experience representing individuals and families in medical malpractice and personal injury cases in California. Our award-winning firm has extensive resources and connections with medical experts to help evaluate the conduct of medical providers and whether their actions failed to conform with actions reasonably skilled and experienced practitioners would be expected to provide.

The firm received a $17 million result on behalf of a client who developed a routine infection during pregnancy that was left untreated by her healthcare providers. The infection worsened and she became septic. She was hospitalized and nearly died. She recovered; however, her baby sustained a severe brain injury from the mother's infection and now requires 24/7 attendant care for life. This case is believed to be the largest medical malpractice recovery, either by settlement or jury verdict, for a medical malpractice case in California history.

Contact the offices of Bostwick & Peterson today to schedule a free case consultation.