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10 California hospitals fined for medical errors

December 20, 2012 | 10:23 am

The California Department of Public Health fined 10 California hospitals $785,000 Thursday for errors that caused "immediate jeopardy" to the health and safety of patients.

The civil fines, ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, were issued to hospitals throughout the state for errors that occurred in 2010 and 2011. Two facilities in Los Angeles County and two in Orange County were among those fined.

All of the incidents either caused or were likely to cause the death or serious injury of a patient and occurred because the hospital failed to comply with licensing requirements, officials said. 

Four of the hospitals fined were Kaiser facilities. At Kaiser South Bay, a patient died after mistakenly being given a blood thinner instead of medication to stop bleeding in the digestive track. The state fined the facility $50,000. At Kaiser San Diego, surgeons removed a patient's incorrect kidney, resulting in a $75,000 fine. 

A few of the penalties were due to surgical items being left behind in patients during operations. At Methodist Hospital of Southern California in Arcadia, surgeons left in a sponge when removing a patient's gall bladder. The fine was $50,000.

Two hospitals -- Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center and Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Tulare County -- were fined twice. And one facility, UC San Francisco Medical Center, received its sixth fine.

The goal of the penalties and of publicly reporting them is to reduce surgical and medication errors, said Debby Rogers, deputy director of the department's Center for Healthcare Quality.

"The value of the fines is bringing awareness both to the healthcare industry and healthcare providers but also to consumers," she said.  

Rogers said the state has proposed regulations that would raise the amount of penalties, making the initial fine $75,000, the second $100,000 and the third $125,000. The regulations also would allow the state to issue fines for errors that do not rise to the level of "immediate jeopardy."

Since 2007, the state has fined 141 hospitals a total of $9.6 million in penalties. The state has collected $7.5 million of that amount.

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--Anna Gorman 

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