Infection outbreak at Greenville hospital may lead to litigation

Most people have very high standards when it comes to the care they receive at a hospital. There is an expectation that all medical professionals will provide the best possible care they can and that the hospital is abiding by all industry best practices.

But it’s these same expectations that can lead to shock and concern, especially following a medical mistake. After witnessing such negligence, most people find that their trust in the hospital and its staff has been broken, which leaves victims with a number of questions such as “how is this mistake going to be remedied?” and “am I able to seek compensation?”

As some of our Spartanburg readers know, this is the case now for many people who have received treatment at the Greenville Memorial Hospital in Greenville recently. Several months ago, the hospital fell under scrutiny after it announced that several surgical patients had been infected with mycobacterium abscessus — a bacterium that is especially harmful to immuno-compromised individuals.

Although the bacterium is considered mostly harmless, it can be fatal if it is introduced to a surgical site. Infections caused by mycobacterium abscessus have an incredibly long incubation period — an average of 79 days — meaning many patients are not aware of the serious risk to their health until months after they have been infected.

In the case above, this meant that by the time the hospital removed the electrical devices thought to be the sources of the infection, an unknown number of patients had already been infected.

Only 12 patients have been treated for the surgical infection while three patients have already died. But because of the incubation period for the bacterium, it’s possible that we could see more cases in the months to come. If this happens, then Greenville Memorial Hospital could face further litigation as more patients and their families step forward to file medical malpractice lawsuits. And depending on how the courts rule in these cases, the hospital could be liable for a considerable amount of damages for this medical mistake.

Sources: WYFF News, “Patient’s widow wants answers from hospital with infection outbreak,” Mike McCormick, July 8, 2014

WLTX News, “Bacterial Infection Found at Greenville Hospital,” The Associated Press, June 21, 2014

Greenville Hospital System, “Update on Infection Outbreak Investigation”