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CA Fines 10 Hospitals $625,000 for Medical Errors

   June 07, 2013

Retained surgical objects, patient falls, and medication errors are the top violations leading to immediate jeopardy penalties issued to hospitals by the California Department of Health.

Five patients had to undergo repeat surgeries to retrieve forgotten surgical items such as a sponge, a retractor, and a clamp; two patients died after falls; and three patients suffered harm because of medication errors, according to Thursday's release of immediate jeopardy penalties against 10 California hospitals.

"In issuing these administrative penalties, our goal at the Department of Public Health is to improve the quality of healthcare at all California hospitals," Debby Rogers, deputy director of the Center for Health Care Quality, said during a teleconference.  

"Information about the incidents that led to these penalties can be used to determine how these violations or deficiencies can be decreased and eliminated over time," she said.  

Under state law that has been in effect since 2009, California health officials publicize such incidents because they show that hospitals have failed to comply with requirements of licensure, and those failures have caused or were likely to cause serious injury or death to a patient.

The amounts of the fines vary depending on whether the violation is a hospital's first, second, third, or subsequent, and range from $25,000 to $100,000 each. In this latest round, state regulatory officials assessed a total of $625,000, bringing the total to $11 million dollars in penalties that 150 of the state's 400 hospitals have been told to pay.  

About $8.8 million of that has been collected, while a portion of the rest is under appeal, Rogers said. Some of the money is being used on developing improvement projects for some of the most common immediate jeopardy mistakes, such as retained foreign surgical objects and medication errors, Rogers said.

Details of the incidents as shown on state documents, which can be found on the state website by county along with each hospital's required plans of correction, are as follows:

Retained surgical objects

1. At Simi Valley Hospital & Health Care Services, Simi Valley, in Ventura County, failed to remove an 8-inch Babcock clamp (a device used to grasp, join, compress, or support an organ, tissue or vessel), from a patient who had abdominal surgery. After the patient complained of "significant pain and experienced increased bile drainage, a series of abdominal X-rays revealed a clamp.  


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