Who is really held accountable after a ‘superbug’ outbreak occurs? What are appropriate steps to take to mitigate the reoccurrence of an outbreak?

The outbreak of the ‘superbug’ (antibiotic resistant) bacteria, at the UCLA Medical Center in December 2014, raised serious health care concerns. One of the most important questions to arise is who is really held accountable after a ‘superbug’ outbreak occurs. Another important concern is what are some of the appropriate steps to take to mitigate the reoccurrence of an outbreak (learn more).

Who is responsible?

The outbreak at UCLA was traced to the use of contaminated medical duodenoscopes (specialized endoscopes) in examinations. UCLA officials said that the scopes were being cleaned in accordance with the standards outlined by the manufacturer.  However, the problems relating to the proper sterilization of duodenoscopes were already known.

Against this background, it is obvious that a more rigorous cleaning protocol was needed. Should the manufacturers be blamed for not revising the inadequate sterilization process, or should health care providers have taken the initiative and adopted a more effective sterilization technique.  Although the manufactures must answer to the shortcomings of the sterilization process, health care providers should also be proactive, and utilize more comprehensive cleaning techniques.

Steps to take to mitigate the reoccurrence of an outbreak

Subsequent to the outbreak, UCLA started utilizing stricter decontamination techniques that exceed the requirements of the manufacturer. In order to reduce the risk of outbreak, it has also been recommended that health care providers adopt more stringent hand hygiene practices. On February 19, 2015 the FDA issued an advisory, warning doctors that germs will linger in the duodenoscopes, even if they are cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Health care providers can contact Nelson Hardiman, LLP, Los Angeles, CA, for assistance on this and other health care matters. Call 310-203-2800 today to speak to an attorney.

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