Our client, a 37 year old woman, was admitted to the intensive care unit after being diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia, urinary tract infection, malnutrition, and a form of muscular dystrophy. During her hospitalization, she required intubation and an eventual tracheotomy. She also required night time ventilator support. During her stay in the ICU, our client was exposed to other patients with Acinetobacter baumanni. This happened because the nursing staff failed to isolate infected patients and failed to properly clean and disinfect their hands. Our client developed a positive sputum culture for Acinetobacter baumanni, a multidrug resistant organism. She was not placed in contact isolation for her positive culture, which would protect other hospitalized patients. A week after contracting the bacterial infection, she developed a fever, was transferred back to the ICU, and put on ventilator support. Our client continued to deteriorate, and she died 4 days later.
More probably than not our client contracted Acinetobacter baumanni while in the hospital. Very ill patients on a ventilator, those with prolonged hospital stay, with open wounds, chronic lung disease, and weakened immune systems are at greater risk for Acinetobacter infection. This type of bacteria can be spread to a susceptible person by person-to-person contact or contact with contaminated surfaces. The highest prevalence of hospital acquired infection occurs in the intensive care units. The nursing staff has a duty to ensure the proper sterilization techniques are utilized in order to prevent the transmission of bacteria like Acinetobacter baumanni. Moreover, nursing staff must utilize patient isolation and order culture specimens for any patient that presents with the signs and symptoms of a communicable disease. If these policies and procedures were utilized in our client’s case, then, more likely than not, the transmission to and infection of our client with Acinetobacter baumanni would not have occurred.
Our client was born with muscular dystrophy, but that did not stop her in the pursuit of her dreams. She did not consider herself different than anyone else. She was very intelligent and gifted in school. She was fiercely independent, living and working in California, Virginia, Kansas, and Idaho. During her travels she met her fiancé, and they were planning a wedding. Our client attended college and obtained a degree in English. She dreamed of being a writer and was considering applying to law school. Our client’s life was ended in a very untimely manner. The Department of Health and Hospitals cited this hospital for their lack of hygiene and infection control; the DHH also determined that the hospital staff was negligent in causing our client’s infection. Todd Townsley was able to reach a satisfactory settlement with both the hospital and the Patient Compensation Fund for this hurting family who had lost such an ambitious young woman.