A man who contracted necrotizing fasciitis while in hospital for his condition, before lapsing into a coma, has sued the same hospital for negligence, authorities and nursing homes in New Jersey.
David Whitman suffered the potentially fatal necrotizing fasciitis after being diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis at a dermatology clinic in May 2017, according to the complaint.
It included evidence of surgery performed on Whitman in 2016 to treat a bacterial infection while in surgery, the complaint said.
Initially, Whitman had the bacteria seeping into his skin. But several weeks later, the blueberry man regained control of his infection and started showing signs of improvements.
Necrotizing fasciitis occurs when necrotizing fasciitis in bacteria injects blood-clotting cells inside the infected tissue, killing the patient. Whitman was the second patient the hospital treated to develop the fatal infection after emergency surgery to remove skin grafts.
He also had a strain of flesh-eating bacteria, it said. The bacteria can attach to material in the body and start to slowly swell. The infected tissue can become blood-borne or enter the bloodstream.
Necrotizing fasciitis and its cousin necrotizing fasciitis are characterized by inflammation of the outer layer of skin. A person with this type of infection can suffer a severe reaction similar to necrotizing fasciitis, and require surgery to remove it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The New Jersey Health Department, which is the investigating agency, has taken notice of the case and filed a complaint with the New Jersey Office of Inspector General, according to an agency spokesperson. The state is seeking monetary and punitive damages.
Whitman filed a claim with the Middlesex County Managed Care Association, the HMO, representing the three hospitals and nursing homes where he was treated. In a statement, MDMC said that Whitman was not admitted to its facilities for injury, neglect or lack of competence but was instead recovering in the medical community.
“The history of Mr. Whitman’s injury was eerily similar to other symptoms reported by other patients with recurrent infection or other conditions,” MDMC said. “MDMC is deeply concerned that this tragic incident could have been avoided and the statutory review of circumstances may increase the severity of damages to victims.”
The complaint also cites the rash that afflicted Whitman a few months after being admitted and was subsequently found to be associated with his infection. Whitman’s doctors determined that the rash was caused by fasciitis.
An MDMC spokeswoman said in a statement that Whitman is making good progress and is recovering from a partial paralysis of the lower right side of his body, indicative of the disease, but told NJ Advance Media that the investigation has also found that MDMC did not follow adequate infection control practices.
“Physicians were not observed to follow appropriate infection control protocols or to exercise additional care when administering treatment; MDMC Health Systems intentionally put the patient at risk with its improper disposal of needles and hand sanitizer at a MRSA clinic in a building adjacent to MDMC,” the statement said.
Harrisburg attorney Karel Desai represents Whitman in the federal action. He could not be reached for comment.
State officials did not respond to requests for comment.
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