Two O.C. hospitals fined over patient-safety lapses

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Personal Injury News

Article Date: 5/20/2009 | Resource: MLG

Two O.C. hospitals fined over patient-safety lapses

“An object is left in a patient during surgery and an assault against a patient is not promptly handled.”

UC Irvine Medical Center and St. Jude Medical Center have been fined by state health regulators for patient safety violations, including improper handling of a sexual abuse allegation, officials announced Wednesday.

The hospitals were among 13 in California who received the penalties for incidents that occurred in 2008 and 2007.

UCI received two fines for a total of $50,000. In one case, the hospital failed to promptly respond to a patient’s allegation of sexual abuse. According to the state investigative report, in September a female patient reported that a male nursing assistant inappropriately touched her genitals.

The employee was allowed to work three days before being placed on leave, state documents say. The report says when investigators asked staff why he was allowed to stay on the job, they were told he had never received a complaint before and he was perceived as a good employee.

The report says a detective investigating the case believed the abuse allegation was credible. The case was referred to the district attorney’s office and the employee no longer works at the medical center, said UCI spokesman John Murray. According to the hospital’s plan of correction, managers were reminded that employees accused of abuse are to be placed on leave immediately.

The other UCI fine was due to failure to follow procedures to prevent patient falls. The investigative report says in June, a patient at risk for falls got up from bed on his own and fell on his way to the bathroom. He suffered bleeding the brain and died after removal from life support.

UCI issued a statement saying it takes the fines very seriously, has expanded staff training and oversight and is “committed to redoubling our efforts to ensure the safety of each and every patient in our care.”

St. Jude in Fullerton was fined $25,000 after a plastic drape was left in a patient’s body during a July hysterectomy. The drape had not been included in the surgical equipment count, according to the state’s investigative report. The patient had to undergo a second surgery for its removal.

Dr. Michael Marino, chief medical officer at St. Jude, said the surgeon realized the error while the patient was in recovery. The doctor immediately took the patient into surgery and removed the drape.

“We regret that she had to have the second procedure, but there were no complications,” Marino said. “We advocate the current movement in healthcare about transparency, that things are disclosed to the patient immediately as soon as a mistake is known.”


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Jeffrey Marquart