SF Hospitals Fined For Leaving Sponge, Wire Behind During Surgery

Three Bay Area hospitals were issued penalties and fines totaling $225,000 Wednesday for incidents in 2011 that caused or were likely to cause patient deaths.

They were among 10 hospitals in the state that were penalized and fined a total of $625,000 by the California Department of Public Health Wednesday.

Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae was fined $75,000 for giving a dialysis patient the wrong medication that caused gangrene to the patient’s toes and fingers.


Health Department Fines 3 Bay Area Hospitals For Serious Patient Mistakes [KCBS]

Faced with continuous dialysis and pain from the gangrenous toes and fingers, the patient’s family decided to discontinue all medical care and the patient died, according to the report of the incident. It was Marin General Hospital’s third administrative penalty.

The California Pacific Medical Center’s Pacific Campus in San Francisco was fined $100,000 for failure to remove a sponge from the body of a patient who had bladder surgery. It was the hospital’s fourth administrative penalty.

The California Pacific Medical Center’s St. Luke’s Campus Hospital in San Francisco was fined $50,000 for leaving a guide wire inside a patient’s heart during a catheter procedure on a diabetic patient who needed emergency dialysis to prevent kidney failure. It was the hospital’s first administrative penalty.

The hospitals can appeal the penalties and fines.

During a media conference call this morning, Debby Rogers, deputy director of the Department of Public Health’s Center for Health Care Quality, said 276 administrative penalties have been issued to 150 California hospitals between 2009 and 2011.

Incidents before 2009 carry a fine of $25,000, but the fines for incidents after Jan. 1, 2009, increased to $50,000 for a first violation, $75,000 for a second violation and $100,000 for a third or subsequent violation of a hospital’s licensing requirements.

Legislation is pending to raise the fines to $75,000 for a first violation, $100,000 for a second violation and $125,000 for three or more penalties in a three-year period, Rogers said.

Twenty-six percent of the penalties against hospitals are for leaving foreign objects, such as sponges, inside a patient’s body, and 22 percent are for medication errors, Rogers said. They are consistently the top two hospital licensing violations.

Five of the ten administrative penalties issued Wednesday relate to leaving a foreign body inside a patient, Rogers said.

Since 2007, the California Department of Public Health has assessed $11.9 million in fines, including Wednesday’s $625,000, and has collected $8.8 million.

Hospitals are appealing $3.1 million in fines, Rogers said.

James Lanaras, Bay City News

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