DPH Fines 10 California Hospitals $700K for Adverse Events

On Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health announced that it has fined 10 hospitals hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical errors that put patients’ lives at risk, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.

Details of Penalties

DPH fined the 10 hospitals a total of $700,000 for errors varying in severity (Abram, Los Angeles Daily News, 2/11).
The penalized hospitals included:

  • Beverly Hospital in Montebello, which was fined $50,000 for a 2012 incident in which an inexperienced nurse attempted to insert a nasogastric tube five times, causing severe nose bleeding in the patient, who needed surgery to fix the injury;
  • John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio, which was fined $100,000 for allowing a patient who was suffering from liver failure in 2011 to be transferred to the Riverside County Regional Medical Center in a private vehicle, which broke down on the way;
  • Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Woodland Hills, which was fined $50,000 for a 2013 error in which a 66-year-old patient died about 10 days after a family member administered in the six hours following the patient’s surgery 19 doses of narcotics, some of which were potentially fatal. The patient had a self-administering analgesic device, which should have been monitored by the hospital;
  • Loma Linda University Medical Center, which was fined $50,000 for a 2011 incident in which a patient died after a physician misread an X-ray and inserted a feeding tube into the patient’s right lung instead of the stomach;
  • Mark Twain Medical Center in San Andreas, which was fined $50,000 for a 2013 incident in which a 78-year-old patient died following colon and hernia surgery when a towel was left inside the patient’s body and caused blood clots;
  • Palomar Medical Center in Escondio, which was fined $50,000 for a 2013 incident in which a 68-year-old cancer patient died from a skull fracture and brain bleeding after falling out of bed;
  • Rideout Memorial Hospital in Marysville, which was fined $50,000 for a 2012 incident in which a patient died after receiving 10 times the prescribed dosage of methadone but never receiving a drug to reverse the overdose;
  • Southwest Healthcare System in Murrieta, which was fined $100,000 for a 2011 incident  in which a 47-year-old patient with a history of pulmonary  disease, diabetes and hypertension died after being kept in the emergency department, where she did not receive the necessary medication to stabilize her condition, rather than the intensive care unit;
  • UC-San Diego Medical Center, which was fined $100,000 for a 2013 incident in which a 58-year-old patient left the hospital campus and was found dead after a panic button that would have warned the nurses was never installed; and
  • UC-San Francisco Medical Center, which was fined $100,000 for a 2011 incident in which a patient was forced to undergo multiple eye surgeries after wrongfully being administered the chicken pox vaccine (Shinkman, Payers & Providers, 2/11).

Hospitals’ Responses

In a statement, Kaiser officials said, “When an adverse unanticipated outcome occurs, even if standard medical procedures were followed, we rigorously investigate the cause and work hard to make changes to help prevent it from occurring again.”
Loma Linda officials noted that the fine against the hospital was levied over an error that occurred several years ago. In a statement, the hospital said, “We are a teaching hospital, and we carefully study critical events to identify opportunities to improve systems and practices of patient care.”

Watchdog Group Calls for Further Efforts

Meanwhile, Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, said DPH has failed to take appropriate action when hospitals report repeated medical errors.
She said, “I think there is a clear need for legislators to take some initiative to help patients.” She added that hospitals “are not correcting the problem when” DPH finds an issue (Los Angeles Daily News, 2/11).