Preventing Hospital Bedsores: Patients’ Rights and Hospital Obligations

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Preventing Hospital Bedsores: Patients’ Rights and Hospital Obligations

Hospital bedsores can pose serious health risks, including sepsis, amputation and death. Patients in these settings have rights that should prevent sores from developing and ensure proper care of any that occur. However, many patients and their families are not aware of these rights. If you or a loved one developed pressure sores while in a hospital or skilled nursing facility, it is imperative that you take time to learn your rights.

About Hospital Bedsores

An alarming number of hospital patients and nursing home residents develop bedsores. Patients with limited mobility, compromised circulation and a lack of sensation in the skin are most at risk of developing them. Cognitive impairments and malnutrition further increase risks.

Bedsores tend to develop in areas of the body with thin skin stretched over bony prominences. SHoulderblades and the pelvis or buttocks are very common areas where bedsores develop. They are also often found on the feet, knees and head. However, bedsores can form anywhere that skin is left under pressure for long enough to disrupt circulation.

They are largely preventable with proper patient care and attention. If staff notices an early-stage sore, treatment is possible. Failure to act on this observation is a failure to provide proper care and should be considered negligence.

Stages of Bedsore Development

These dangerous lesions have four typical stages of development. Treatment methods become more intensive as sores progress from stage one through stage four. When bedsores move beyond the fourth, they are unclassified and considered a serious, potentially fatal, injury. Because nursing home staff is unequipped to handle stage three or higher bedsores and their complications, Florida law requires them to transfer patients with these to an appropriate hospital for intensive treatment.

Stage one bedsores appear as red, blue or purple areas of discoloration. They may be painful and warm to the touch. Pressure sores at this stage are often easily treatable with common prevention measures and the use of dressings and creams. Failure to provide treatment can cause them to progress.

Stage two pressure ulcers appear as small wounds on the skin. Treatment is still possible with pressure-relieving devices, topical medications and dressings. However, the risk of further development and infection increases at this stage.

Stage three pressure sores involve increasing layers of tissue. They typically appear as craters in the skin. The risk of infection is very high at this point due to the amount of exposed tissue. Treatment at a hospital is the best course of action.

Stage four bedsores involve even more tissue, including necrosis of connective tissue and possibly bones. Wounds often have a strong odor and the risk of infection is severe. Patients may develop further complications including sepsis. Patients and care providers should consider stage four bed sores as a serious threat to patient health and safety.

Hospital Bedsore Statistics

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in 10 nursing home residents had pressure sores, with residents aged 64 and under more likely to develop them. Recent weight loss, a large number of medications and immobility were associated with a higher risk of developing sores. 
  • The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion reported 836.9 bedsore-related hospitalizations per 100,000 adults aged 65 and over in 2016. It notes a decrease is needed to meet the Healthy People 2023 goal of 753.2 hospitalizations per 100,000.
  • According to the World Health Organization, Pressure ulcers are highly preventable. Additionally, they significantly impact the mental and physical health and quality of life of affected individuals. 
  • The National Library of Medicine lists prevention as the best treatment for skin conditions including bedsores. It notes that any pressure ulcers should receive prompt treatment to limit complications and further deterioration.

Patients’ Rights to Proper Care

As a patient, you have the right to proper and prompt medical care. This includes medical care providers implementing preventative measures to avoid bed sores forming. Some steps that care providers can, and should, take to prevent bedsores include:

  • Frequent repositioning of immobile or mobility limited patients
  • Appropriate regular skincare to keep skin clean and moisturized
  • A proper diet that provides for patient nutritional requirements
  • Preventative devices such as pressure-relieving pillows and mattresses

You must remember that medical providers take an oath to provide a start of care to every patient. Failure to prevent bedsores is often a sign of patient neglect through a failure to meet that standard. No one should suffer because of the negligence of a medical provider.

There should also be clear and open communication among care providers and between them and patients. This removes many questions about the level of care being provided and allows the patient and her family to be involved in any decisions. Additionally, any signs of bedsores must be carefully documented, including what steps staff took to remedy them. If you have concerns about the level of care in a hospital, address them with a floor manager or hospital administrator.

Patients’ Rights To Seek Compensation

Patients who suffer an injury due to the negligence of a medical care provider have the right to seek compensation for those injuries. A hospital bedsore lawsuit can potentially recover a monetary award as coverage for the costs of the following types of injuries:

  • Past, current and future medical care
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Permanent disability
  • Home modifications
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Pain and suffering
  • Wrongful death

Many hospitals and their insurance companies will attempt to avoid a lawsuit by offering to settle bedsore complaints. However, these initial settlements are often insufficient to cover the long-term costs of care. Advanced bedsores can take three months to several years to fully resolve. Constant care is necessary during this time, and any award should consider that.

The Right to Legal Counsel

Anyone suffering an injury has the right to legal counsel. If an insurance provider offers a settlement before you speak to an attorney, you have the right to decline the offer or delay an answer until you can speak to a hospital bedsore lawyer.

Hospital insurance companies and their attorneys may try to pressure you to accept a settlement before speaking to an attorney. However, doing so can reduce your ability to seek full and proper compensation for your injuries. Therefore, it is advisable to speak with an experienced injury attorney before you sign any agreements.

In fact, it is a good idea to speak with an attorney before you communicate with the hospital at all. When you hire a bedsore attorney, he will act as an intermediary between you and the hospital, its insurance provider and any of their attorneys. This limits the likelihood that you will be caught off-guard or get tricked into making a statement that undermines your case.

An Attorney Who Will Fight for You

At Gordon & Partners we fight for the injured. If you or a loved one were diagnosed with bedsores during a hospital stay, schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation at one of our convenient South Florida offices. You’ll have a chance to meet one of our attorneys who will discuss your injuries and evaluate your medical records. Then, we’ll determine the strength of your medical neglect claims and make recommendations on the next steps to take. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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Gordon & Partners, P.A.

4114 Northlake Blvd
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410
Phone: (561) 333-3333

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Phone: 1-561-333-3333

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