Palo Alto and San Francisco Hospitals Fined for Putting Patients in Danger

The California Department of Public Health issued a list on December 8, 2011 of 14 California hospitals that received administrative fines for not properly following hospital policies and procedures meant to ensure the health and safety of its patients. Out of the fourteen hospitals cited, seven were fined for leaving behind foreign objects in patients during surgery, four hospitals were fined for improperly administering medication, and three hospitals were fined for other reasons.

Surgery.jpgIn total $850,000 in fines were issued for five different types of medical errors. Agents of the California Department of Public Health are trained to look for 28 different adverse events that range from performing surgery on the wrong body part to using medical equipment for a purpose other than its intended use to patient falls in the facility while care is being provided.

Amendments to California Health and Safety Code §1280.1 and §1280.3 were passed in 2007. The statutes now allow the California Department of Public Health to issue administrative fines to hospitals whose noncompliance with safety policies and procedures put a patient in immediate jeopardy of serious injury or death. In 2009, the fines were raised in accordance with the statute. The penalty for first offenses increased from $25,000 to $50,000 and implemented fines up to $100,000 for multiple offenses. These fines are only applicable to General Acute Care Hospitals, Acute Psychiatric Hospitals, and Special Hospitals.

Of the fourteen hospitals fined by the California Department of Public Health, four are located in the Greater Bay Area. San Francisco General Hospital received its second administrative penalty of $50,000 fine for performing a partial mastectomy on a woman who had requested a full mastectomy. UCSF Medical Center was fined $75,000 for its sixth administrative penalty because a surgeon mistakenly made an incision under the patient’s left eye, but closed it after he realized the incision should have been made under the patient’s right eye. The Kaiser Foundation Hospital in South San Francisco was given its first administrative fine of $50,000 for storing vaccines and some other medicines at an improper temperature, which could decrease their effectiveness. The compromised vaccines and medicines were administered to almost 5,000 patrons of the hospital. Finally, the Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford was fined $50,000 for its second administrative penalty for administering an improper dose of medication to a patient, causing the patient to seizure.

The California Department of Public Health looks at eight factors when determining whether a fine should be issued to an acute care provider and how much the fine should be. These factors include the risk to the patient from the non-compliant action, financial harm to the patient, the hospital’s record on compliance with safety policies and procedures, and the hospital’s responsiveness to the problem. Licenses and certification may not be revoked based on the number of administrative penalties, but hospitals are required to submit a plan of correction, which demonstrates how the hospital will attempt to prevent future occurrences of similar medical errors. The hospitals may file an administrative appeal within 10 days to request a hearing.

In June of this year, three other Bay Area hospitals received administrative penalties for putting patients in immediate jeopardy. The offending hospitals may also be subject to civil actions by individual patients looking to recover financial losses as well as for pain and suffering resulting from the hospitals’ negligence.

Contact a medical malpractice lawyer to advise you on the possibility of recovering money damages for financial losses such as lost wages as well as for pain and suffering if you believe that your or a loved one suffered as a result of medical malpractice. Call the Brod Law Firm for a free consultation today.

Greg Brod is an experienced personal injury lawyer practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding regions.