Three people in NSW have now been diagnosed with a rare infection after heart surgery, with contaminated medical equipment thought to be the cause of the problem.
The Mycobacterium chimaera bacteria has been linked to surgical heater-cooler systems worldwide, and NSW Health claimed the equipment was contaminated during manufacture.
According to the Australian Associated Press, a man in his 80s became the third victim in NSW, but there have been more than 70 cases globally and the first incident in Australia was reported in Queensland.
The man received heart surgery at Prince of Wales Hospital in 2015, with the infection sometimes taking several years to diagnose. The revelation comes less than two months after NSW Health released a statement identifying the Prince of Wales Hospital as being under special consideration.
"NSW Health has communicated with heart surgery patients at the four NSW public hospitals that used the affected equipment – Prince of Wales, St George, The Children's Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children's Hospital Randwick, responding to international advice," said NSW Health Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant.
"We are particularly watching for further potential cases at Prince of Wales Hospital, as experience overseas has shown that when an M chimaera case is reported in a facility it may signal an increased risk to other patients who had heart surgery in that facility."
Will medical negligence claims follow?
Hospital-acquired infections can lead to medical negligence claims, with compensation potentially available if plaintiffs can prove they came to harm due to duty of care breaches.
However, it's difficult to predict whether patients affected by the Mycobacterium chimaera infection will be able to make a claim, particularly as the devices may have been contaminated during manufacture.
Mycobacterium chimaera causes a number of symptoms, including unusual shortness of breath, persistent fevers and unexplained weight loss.
A woman in her 80s was the first individual diagnosed with the infection in NSW, while a man in his 40s became the second case. Both patients were treated at Prince of Wales.
"NSW Health [has] also sent letters to patients who underwent open heart surgery between January 2012 and August 2016 at the four public hospitals, informing patients about the risk, symptoms and what to do if concerned," Ms Chant stated.
If you have acquired an infection while receiving treatment at a hospital in NSW, talk to a medical negligence claims lawyer to see whether or not you are eligible for compensation.