A recent Los Angeles Times news article revealed that the California Department of Public Health issued fines between $10,000 to $100,000 to ten California hospitals for mistakes occurring in 2010 and 2011 that caused patient’s severe injury or death. Among the fined facilities were two Los Angeles County and two Orange County hospitals.
The amount of penalties totaled $785,000 for mistakes that included failing to call for help when a patient started bleeding excessively, leaving surgical objects in patients, and removing the wrong kidney. Our medical malpractice attorneys find these errors to be inexcusable; unfortunately, reports of such errors happen all over the United States and are not restricted to California.
The deputy director of the department’s Center for Healthcare Quality said that the objective of such fines and allowing them to become public was to create awareness, not only among healthcare providers but among consumers as well. This in turn will reduce harmful surgical and medication errors
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Four of the penalized hospitals were Kaiser facilities, including those in South Bay, Oakland, and Southern California. In one case, a 29-year-old woman at Kaiser’s Oakland Medical Center passed away during laser surgery to remove a defect on her upper lip. The state imposed a $100,000 fine on the hospital.
A patient at Kaiser’s South Bay Medical Center passed away after erroneously being given a blood thinner instead of medicine to stop bleeding in the digestive tract. The hospital was penalized with a $50,000 fine.
Some penalties were in response to surgical instruments being left in patients. At Methodist Hospital in Southern California, surgeons left a sponge in the patient’s body during a gallbladder operation. Doctors had to perform a second surgery to remove the lost sponge. The result – a $50,000 fine.
One particular facility – the University of California San Francisco Medical Center – received its sixth fine since 2007. Two years ago, a nurse administered medication to a cancer patient even though the patient was allergic to it. As a result, the patient spent a considerable amount of time in the ICU and a skilled nursing facility. The deputy director stated that UCSF’s Medical Center abundance of fines was indeed quite alarming.
Following the mistake, the medical center re-trained staff on procedures pertaining to allergies and re-assessed the nurse practitioner workload. In addition, the hospital implemented a detailed electronic health records system, making it easier to access patient information.
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The deputy director said the state recently proposed regulations that would increase the amount of penalties, making the preliminary fine $75,000, the second penalty $100,000 and the third, $125,000. In Orange County, the two hospitals that were fined were Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley and Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo.
Through the imposition of higher fines and other regulatory changes, it may be possible to curb the frequency of medical errors. Many health policy advocates believe that electronic health records will help improve patient safety. The findings of a recent study reveal that even with electronic records, medical mistakes still happen, though they are usually “close calls” or “near misses,” as the article highlights.
The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Report analyzed over 3,000 error reports in Pennsylvania hospitals to find out how serious electronic record associated mistakes were. Close to 4,000 electronic records problems were discovered in the period 2004 to 2012.
The researchers also found that using both electronic and paper-based records at the same time, called dual workflow, was especially problematic.
If you suffered severe injuries from a medical malpractice error, consult an experienced medical malpractice lawyer for a free legal consultation.