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13 California Hospitals Fined For Serious Medical Errors

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, January 29, 2010 11:06 AM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: Medical Errors, HealthGrades, Hearst, Doctors, Prescription Errors, Wrong-Site Surgery

California now fines hospitals for medical errors and 16 fines have been issued.

Medical Errors Cost Billions and Lives


IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockPhoto/ doctors circling/ Kovalvs

13 California hospitals have been fined by the state for medical errors that, in some cases, seriously injured or killed patients.

That information is contained in a report by the California Department of Public Health made public Wednesday.

Altogether, 16 administrative fines were issued to 13 hospitals. The hospitals may appeal the fines but must submit plans to improve patient safety, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Many of the fines have to do with a failure to follow hospital policies and procedures, for the monitoring of patients, and the safe administration of medication. In some cases, a foreign object was left in the patient, requiring follow-up surgery to remove the object.

Among the medical errors:

  • Los Angeles Community Hospital in Norwalk – When a patient who was supposed to be restrained it turns out he was not. Instead, he pulled out his tracheotomy tube and was found unresponsive in bed. Hospital fine = $50,000.

  • Hoag Memorial Hospital Newport Beach – When a patient on a metal gurney was placed near an MRI machine, the magnetic force sucked her in, fracturing her leg and foot.

  • St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton- A patient treated in the emergency room for a heart attack died. Nurses noticed his heart monitor had been disconnected. The hospital says the alarm was not loud enough to alert staff.

See the other incidents in the report.

California has issued 134 fines since requirements were put in place in January 2007. The state has collected $2.3 million from the 90 hospitals that have been fined.

Medical Errors

In 1998, the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine released the report,” To Err is Human; Building a Safer Health System.” It attributed at least 44,000 patient deaths annually to medical errors.

The Kaiser Family Foundation in a poll conducted November, 2004 found that 34 percent of Americans say they have experienced a preventable medical error.

HealthGrades, a hospital rating agency, in July 2004, released a study finding an average of 195,000 people die every year from preventable medical errors in U.S. hospitals in the years 2000-2002.

HealthGrades finds the cost to taxpayers was $8.8 billion for medical errors to Medicare patients from 2004 to 2006.

The Hearst newspaper group, in a special investigation conducted in 2009, Dead By Mistake, found closer to 200,000 patients die each year from preventable medical errors and hospital infections. With the lowest estimate, medical errors are the eighth leading cause of death surpassing motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS.

Medication errors alone are estimated to account for over 7,000 deaths annually.

And another survey finds that 80% of U.S. doctors and half of nurses said they have seen colleagues make mistakes, but only 10 percent every spoke up.

When Public Citizen examined the National Practitioners Data Bank, the advocacy group found that 5% of doctors commit 54% of malpractice. #

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