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    There has been a rise in compensation claims regarding “superbug” infections in recent years, mainly by hospital patients or nursing home residents who require day-to-day medical attention and assistance. Where medical services fall below professional standards, a patient can be left at risk of exposure to bacterial infection, with the term “superbug” alluding to certain bacteria that are resistant to treatment with common antibiotics.

    In addition to recovery from infection, obtaining compensation for negligent medical practice can be a complex and difficult process. In most cases, a claim must be brought within three years from the date the infection was contracted. At Healys, a dedicated team of medical negligence solicitors, with many years’ combined experience, will ensure the recovery of both your health and financial compensation are achieved to the maximum extent possible.

    There are three common types of superbug: MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), MSSA (Methicillin-Sensitive Staphylococcus Aureus), C. Difficile (Clostridium Difficile), in addition to a fourth less common type: Necrotising Fasciitis.

    What are MRSA and MSSA?

    MRSA is an infection caused by a very common bacterium, staphylococcus aureus, known in short as “staph”. This bacterium is carried harmlessly on around 30% of the population, and cultivates primarily in a person’s nose and on their skin. However, if the bacteria come into contact with an open cut or wound, it can lead to conditions ranging from minor skin problems to more serious internal organ damage. While not typically life threatening, the bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, including methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin and oxacillin, and are therefore difficult to treat once infection occurs.

    MSSA is a strain of staphylococcus aureus that is susceptible to methicillin treatment.

    MRSA and MSSA are spread through skin contact with someone who has the bacteria on their person, or through contact with objects, such as medical equipment, that have been exposed to the bacteria. People with compromised immune systems, such as hospital patients and nursing home residents, are particularly susceptible to infection.

    Symptoms of MRSA and MSSA

    Both MRSA and MSSA can be carried without symptoms, but either bacterium can be identified through screening prior to medical procedures being carried out. Screening can be as straightforward as obtaining a nasal swab for laboratory testing.

    Treatment of MRSA and MSSA

    MRSA is treatable by administering specialised antibiotics. As its name provides, MSSA can be treated with methicillin.

    What is C. Difficile?

    Similar to MRSA and MSSA, C. Difficile is an infection caused by a very common bacterium, Clostridium Difficile, which primarily exists without symptoms in a person’s lower gastric system. The bacterium is spread through person-to-person contact, and is preventable through maintenance of personal hygiene and sterilising medical equipment.

    Individuals at risk of infection include older persons, people suffering from certain types of cancer and those with inflammatory bowel disease. When a patient receives antibiotic treatment, this too can lead to infection, as the treatment can upset the natural balance of bacterial cultures in the human body.

    Symptoms of C. Difficile

    The symptoms of C. Difficile include diarrhoea, fever, abdominal cramping, and in serious cases, blood can be found in a person’s stool. If left untreated, an infection may result in toxic megacolon or bowel perforation, with both developments being life threatening. An infection can be detected through obtaining a stool sample for laboratory testing.

    Treatment of C. Difficile

    The primary method of treatment for a C. Difficile infection is a targeted administration of antibiotics.

    What is Necrotising Fasciitis?

    Comparatively less common than the above categories of superbug, Necrotising Fasciitis is a flesh eating bacterial infection that attacks the body’s soft tissues. It develops upon entering a cut or break in the skin, where the bacteria release a poisonous chemical that continually damages nearby tissue. Left unchecked, the surrounding tissue will die; an occurrence termed “tissue necrosis” or more commonly known as gangrene. Dead tissue cannot be repaired and must be surgically removed.

    Symptoms of Necrotising Fasciitis

    The symptoms of Necrotising Fasciitis include a heated rash at the site of infection, severe pain, fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. It is detectible through visible symptoms or tissue screening for the bacteria. If the infection has spread internally, an X-ray, CT scan or MRI may be required to determine what damage may have occurred.

    Treatment of Necrotising Fasciitis

    Early detection of infection is paramount, as the longer the infection is left untreated the more likely that removal of large amounts of tissue, and in some case limbs or internal organs, will be necessary. A Necrotising Fasciitis infection can be treated through antibiotics, surgery and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. As with other types of superbug, the existence of bacteria is preventable through maintaining hygiene and sterilising equipment.

    Bringing a Claim for Compensation for a Superbug Infection

    Doctors and healthcare professionals are subject to a legal duty to uphold patient safety and avoid preventable infections. Where standards of medical care have fallen short of this duty, resulting in a patient contracting any of the above infections and experiencing harm, financial compensation can be achieved by bringing a legal claim. Compensation can be awarded for:

    • loss of earnings while receiving treatment;
    • the cost of treatment itself; and
    • the pain and suffering experienced from the infection.

    In most cases, a patient will have three years from the date of treatment to bring legal action, and so it is important to seek legal advice as soon as symptoms of infection arise.

    At Healys, our medical negligence specialists will advise as to whether you may have viable grounds for compensation. Bringing a claim against a healthcare provider, such as the NHS, can be a complicated and daunting process – and the same can be said for claims against a private or public care home. Our team members have an excellent track record of ensuring such claims achieve a satisfactory outcome. Although a legal process can take time, we take extra care in understanding our client’s experience, emotional concerns and what sort of redress they may be seeking, from the first point of contact through to the conclusion of their case.

    Healys places clients’ health rehabilitation on equal footing with obtaining financial recovery. We provide not only specialised legal advice, upon visitation to our clients’ homes or hospital beds, but will additionally assist in securing funding for interim treatment. Furthermore, Healys operates on a “no win, no fee” basis, which alleviates our clients’ financial concerns and helps them focus on the road to recovery.

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    MRSA Claims experiences
    • Jonathan was able to help the husband of a 50 year old woman claim compensation after the hospital failed to diagnose her cancer. Mrs L attended hospital complaining of pain in her abdomen. She was discharged without further tests but unfortunately she died of thyroid cancer a few months later. Jonathan argued that the chance for a liver biopsy was missed during her visit to hospital and although this would not affect the unfortunate outcome, palliative care could have been arranged to ease Mrs L’s suffering. Jonathan was able to secure Mrs L’s husband a five figure sum in compensation.
    • Jonathan has also helped the family of a 71 year old man claim compensation after a complication in his surgery caused his death. Mr R was suffering from chest pains and was admitted to hospital for tests. He was found to have an issue with his heart and doctors attempted to rectify this with a surgical procedure. Unfortunately during this procedure an air pocket had got into one of his blood vessels which caused Mr R’s death. With expert medical evidence Jonathan was able to secure Mr R’s family £75,000 in compensation.
    • Jonathan helped X get further compensation and access to services to aid in his rehabilitation. X was a subject of sexual abuse from his step father between the ages of 5 and 7. Initial application for compensation was made in 1990 and X was awarded £10,000. After several attempts at his own life, X decided to contact Jonathan to seek further compensation. Jonathan was able to secure X £200,000 in compensation and an overall award of £1,200,000 inclusive of state benefits. More importantly Jonathan then arranged the Special Needs Trust to support X’s rehabilitation.
    • Jonathan helped the parents of Baby B claim compensation after a failure in care during labour resulted in Baby B’s death. Initially the Trust denied they were responsible for Baby B’s death but after negotiations the Trust admitted responsibility and Jonathan was able to negotiate an out of court settlement for Baby B’s parents.
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