A widow filed court papers last week that blame local health care providers for her husband’s death from a virulent staph infection.
The Dec. 29 lawsuit alleges that doctors failed to diagnose Ronald Carl with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – better known as MRSA – when he went to a doctor to have a boil lanced last July.
The bacteria that causes MRSA has a variety of symptoms including abscesses that require surgical draining.
Instead of taking a culture to determine the type of infection affecting Carl, he was prescribed antibiotics and sent home, the lawsuit states.
Several days later Carl was admitted to Oak Hill Hospital to control his high blood sugar and tests revealed he had MRSA. However, he was not told of the infection, nor did staff write the results on his chart or notify his doctor, according to the lawsuit.
Carl went home again and his prescribed antibiotics kept the MRSA under “reasonable control” until Sept. 19 and 20 when he visited two other doctors, the lawsuit states.
He was diagnosed with “uncontrolled diabetes,” but the abscess on his back was not examined before he was readmitted to Oak Hill Hospital on Sept. 20, the lawsuit alleges.
The admitting doctor called several times over that period to check on Carl, but it was 21 hours before he was physically examined around midday Sept. 21, according to the lawsuit. The consulting physician determined that Carl was septic with MRSA and ordered him into the intensive care unit because of Carl’s worsening condition, the lawsuit claims.
Carl went into cardiac arrest an hour later, was revived, then died the following morning, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of the Oak Hill Hospital staff and the physicians that treated Carl. It bases its request for more than $15,000 in damages on the Florida Wrongful Death Act. That act provides compensation for families who lose loved ones to medical malpractice.
Richard Linkul, spokesman for Oak Hill Hospital, could not comment on pending litigation. A message left for the attorney behind the lawsuit, Terry Nelson, was not returned Tuesday.
While MRSA can be a fatal infection, there are also thousands of people infected with the bacteria who show no signs of the disease, said Roger Sanderson, an epidemiologist with the Florida Department of Health.
And while MRSA does cause boils on the skin, there’s no reason to immediately suspect that a patient with a boil is infected by the disease, Sanderson said.
“The only way to definitely know is to culture it,” he said.
The most common way that MRSA is spread is by person-to-person contact, although it can become airborne if a person is sick with pneumonia. An uncovered draining abscess could create a higher transfer spread, Sanderson said.