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Shortage of nurses may lead to surgical infections

A University of Pennsylvania study has produced an alarming statistic. Shortage of critical care nurses has been blamed in a large number of patient deaths. The researchers concluded that had Pennsylvania put into place a minimum nurse to patient ratio, more than 250 surgical deaths could have been prevented in 2010 alone.

This figure is significant in part because of the role these nurses play in preventing surgical and hospital-related infections. Also, the cost of an infection acquired during hospitalization can raise the cost of a hospital stay from on average $9,477 per patient to $43,000. 

Pennsylvania legislators have proposed legislation that would require a minimum ratio of patients to nurses. One other University of Pennsylvania study suggests that patient deaths could be reduced by as much as 11 percent in Pennsylvania alone by having such a requirement in place. But though there may be advantages to this type of legislation, we are still not at that point where the legislation has actually been passed.

Though concerns will be voiced regarding costs for hiring on the additional nurses, the cost of patient' infections that in some cases could lead to death likely dwarf these concerns. As with so many patient safety procedures, hospitals are only reluctant to implement these moves until the hospital is sued for medical malpractice.

If the circumstances of a hospitalization has led to an injury or unexplained illness, it may be in your best interest to speak to an attorney regarding a possible medical malpractice claim. Unfortunately, hospitals often will not commit to certain safety procedures until they receive a complaint from an attorney notifying them that a patient of theirs was injured due to medical malpractice.

Source: The Times-Tribune, "More nurses, safer patients; bill would mandate rations," by Scott B. Cooper, March 24, 2013

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