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Nine California hospitals fined for serious medical errors

May 20, 2010 | 12:24 pm

Fine State officials have fined nine California hospitals, seven in Southern California, for medical errors that in some cases killed or seriously injured patients last year, according to a report made public Thursday.

California Department of Public Health officials have required hospital officials -- who may appeal the fines -- to submit plans to correct the problems.

Three hospitals in Orange County and the Inland Empire face $50,000 penalties. It was the first penalty each of the three hospitals have received.

Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo was fined $50,000 in connection with hospital staff mistakenly giving morphine intended for a newborn baby’s mother to the baby in April 2009. The baby "exhibited respiratory depression, and required intubation" but recovered, according to a state investigator’s report.

Hospital officials noted in a statement released Thursday that they reported the incident to the state immediately and took steps to prevent future medication errors.

“Consistent with our commitment to our patients we have conducted a process review and provided ongoing education and training for our patient care teams with regard to administering medications,” the statement said.

In San Bernardino County, Hi-Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree was fined after a 4-year-old girl was burned on her back by cauterizing equipment during a tonsillectomy in May 2009.

“We took it as an important learning opportunity and conducted a thorough review of the circumstances,” the hospital’s chief executive, Lionel Chadwick, said in a statement Thursday. “We redoubled our staff training and competencies.”

In Riverside, Parkview Community Hospital was fined after a surgeon with hospital privileges in July removed the wrong kidney from a Spanish-speaking patient with a kidney tumor. Investigators found out the patient was not provided an interpreter before he consented to the surgery. Francisco Torres, 72, lost his one healthy kidney, was placed on dialysis and sued the surgeon and hospital for medical negligence.

Four hospitals in San Diego County were among those fined.

Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla was issued two fines for a total of $125,000 after a doctor mistakenly inserted a spinal catheter drain backwards and, in a separate incident, staff failed to clean residual blood off of a screwdriver used in a dozen hip surgeries. Scripps Green is among a few hospitals statewide to have received four fines since 2007.

Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego was fined $50,000 after staff gave a 3-year-old with cerebral palsy suffering leg spasms an overdose of injected medication.

Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside was fined $50,000 after cauterizing equipment ignited a fire and burned a patient’s face during a tracheostomy.

Pomerado Hospital in Poway was fined $50,000 for failing to follow its fall prevention policies after the death of a patient who had fallen out of a recliner.

Elsewhere in the state, Alameda County Medical Center was fined $75,000 for failing to implement new procedures for medication distribution, a second penalty for the facility. Marin General Hospital was fined $50,000 for failing to remove a foreign object from a surgical patient.

The state has issued 156 fines since they were first required by law in January 2007, said Kathleen Billingsley, deputy director of the department's Center for Health Care Quality. In all, 108 hospitals have been fined $4.8 million, the state has collected nearly $3 million and 41 of the fines have been appealed, Billingsley said.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske