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Deadly fungal outbreak prompts changes to hospital reporting laws

Laws are meant to protect the public, but unfortunately, not all harm is preventable until it is too late. Sometimes a tragedy has to occur in order to incite the public to push for change. For example, the recent discovery that a fungal infection led to five deaths at a children’s hospital has spurred Louisiana legislators to re-evaluate state health laws.

In 2008 and 2009, a total of five children became infected with a fungus while they were patients at a children’s hospital. Although allegedly aware of the connection between the fungus and the patients’ deaths, the hospital did not report the outbreak at that time; in fact, it only recently contacted the families of the children about what happened.

At present, Louisiana law mandates the disclosure of certain types of diseases and illnesses, but there is no provision requiring that a hospital specifically report the type of fungus at issue in this case. Those who want to amend the law argue that the public has a right to know about any hospital-acquired infection that either directly or indirectly leads to one or more deaths. According to proponents, stricter and more comprehensive mandatory reporting statutes would help to ensure that hospitals remain accountable to patients and their families.

On the other hand, some believe that requiring reports of infections that originate in hospitals will encourage physicians to turn a blind eye to disease outbreaks. If a hospital worker is not aware of an infection, he cannot possibly report it. What happens, however, if a hospital worker goes out of his or her way to avoid learning about the infection so that he will not be required to disclose its existence? If hospitals choose to cut costs and save time by ignoring potentially dangerous situations, mandatory disclosure laws could theoretically inspire more negligence, not less.

Ideally, Louisiana legislators will change the law in such a way that hospitals will be less inclined to conceal their oversights and mistakes. Nevertheless, whenever a patient is harmed by hospital negligence, it may be best for them to contact an experienced attorney who can determine whether a viable claim exists.

Source: Fox8Live.com, “Lawmakers think it’s time to change the law on reporting hospital infections,” Sabrina Wilson, April 25, 2014

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