Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infection  – a “Never Event” in Medical Care

“Never Event” Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infections Occur at
Alarming Rate

Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI) is considered a never event in medicine.  In other words, it should not happen.  In fact, CAUTI is one hospital acquired condition/complication targeted by Medicare for non-payment.

Despite the identification as a never event and the pretty drastic measure by Medicare to cease compensation on complications associated with CAUTI, they continue to occur far too often.

When it does happen, and serious injury or wrongful death ensues, it is important to investigate fully to determine whether the CAUTI was the result of medical malpractice.  As a “never event,” there is a good chance that it was.

Hospital Acquired Urinary Tract Infections Kill Thousands

Urinary tract infections second only to pneumonia in hospital acquired infections.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports indicate that urinary tract infections (UTIs) are, next to pneumonia, the second most common healthcare acquired infection.  According to the CDC, UTIs represent more than 15% of all hospital-acquired infections.

UTIs cause a number of potentially serious and life-threatening complications such as “cystitis, pyelonephritis, gram-negative bacteremia, prostatitis, epididymitis, and orchitis in males; and, less commonly, endocarditis, vertebral osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, endophthalmitis, and meningitis in all patients.”

The consequences of these complications are catastrophic, with more than 13,000 deaths each year from UTI’s.  It is safe to assume that the number of patients injured, often seriously and permanently, far exceeds the number of deaths.

Costs of Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infection

CAUTI’s cause enormous costs to patients, families and the healthcare system. Worse yet, many were medically unnecessary to begin with.

The costs to patients and the healthcare system are enormous.  The direct costs to patients and families related to increased medical bills, ongoing healthcare issues and treatments, lost wages, permanent impairment and so on are huge.

For the skeptical or otherwise biased that believe the lawsuits associated with these events are purely frivolous in nature pursued by opportunistic patients and lawyers, the costs to the system has been quantified as well.

A 2013 study from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found that there were over 1 million CAUTIs each year.  The report remarkably found that most of these were related to unnecessary catheter placement.  In other words, the urinary catheters were not medically called for to begin with.

The study found further that for each CAUTI, there was on average an additional $676 in medical costs. This rose to $2836 when there were complications related to bacteremia.  For the aforementioned skeptics, perhaps the question that should be asked is: what is motivating these unnecessary and expensive catheter placements?

CAUTIs Not Covered by Medicare

CAUTIs were among the first hospital-acquired illnesses that were targeted for non-payment by Medicare.
The report from AHRQ notes that because CAUTIs are inexcusable and they often result from unnecessary catheter placements, CAUTIs were among the first hospital-acquired illnesses targeted by Medicare for non-payment.

As of October 2008, Medicare will no longer pay hospitals for costs associated with CAUTIs.  Moreover, as a never event, CAUTIs have been targeted for complete elimination.

Patient Safety – Protect Thyself

With the risks that accompany urinary catheters, the patient and family must approach this treatment with caution.
As with all hospital encounters, it seems here too that it falls upon the patient and the family to protect themselves from harm at the hands of the hospital.

This would begin with questioning whether the catheter is necessary.  Of course, most patients and families are quite vulnerable in these situations and rely absolutely on the medical professional.

Most have no idea of the risks of urinary catheters.  Those that do might be reluctant to question the doctors.  The patients will typically consent to the treatment proposed by the medical professionals.  Unfortunately, harm will often ensue.

Patient Recourse – Consent Will Not Bar Medical Malpractice Claim

Hospitals and medical providers will often pull out the patient consent form to argue that the patient knew of the risks and accepted them.  Nice try but this does not fly in New Mexico.

Patient consent does not relieve a medical provider from the duty of care.  Likewise, patient’s consent will not excuse a medical provider’s medical negligence.

In these cases, the consent would arguably be invalid anyway.  After all, how would such a consent read, “This urinary catheter is absolutely unnecessary, we are going to insert it anyway, you have a pretty good chance of suffering serious injury or death from this unnecessary procedure, please sign here!”

Never Events Suggest Medical Malpractice – Seek Legal Guidance

If a patient experiences a “never event” then there is reason to believe that medical negligence has occurred.
There are a number of “never events” in medicine and hospitals.  The very definition means that they should not happen.  When they do, medical negligence is more than likely the root cause.

If you or a loved one has suffered serious personal injury or wrongful death from a catheter associated urinary tract infection, seek the guidance of an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

There are a number of important and unique guidelines associated with medical malpractice claims.  Some of these may run early depending upon the type of medical provider.  Do not delay.  Missing a deadline may bar your claims completely.

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