On Thursday, the California Department of Public Health announced that it has fined 12 hospitals for safety lapses that resulted in the deaths of three patients and put others at risk, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports.
The department levied a total of $650,000 in fines for errors that occurred between 2008 and 2010. Most of the errors involved medication mistakes or surgical tools left inside patients after operations (Jablon, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 6/2).
Under a 2006 state law, hospitals must notify state regulators of all significant patient injuries.
For incidents occurring prior to 2009, the state issued $25,000 fines for each violation. Starting in January 2009, the sanctions increased to $50,000 for a hospital's first violation, $75,000 for its second and $100,000 for its third and subsequent violations (California Healthline, 11/15/10).
Pam Dickfoss, acting deputy director of DPH's Center for Quality Health Care, said state regulators have issued 185 fines against 118 hospitals since 2007 (Lavelle, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/2).
The 12 hospitals targeted in the latest round of penalties are:
- AHMC Anaheim Regional Medical Center, which received one $50,000 fine;
- Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez, which received one $50,000 fine;
- Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, which received one $50,000 fine;
- Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock, which received one $50,000 fine;
- Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Francisco, which received one $50,000 fine;
- Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, which received one $50,000 fine;
- Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, which received one $75,000 fine;
- Pomerado Hospital in Poway, which received one $75,000 fine;
- Promise Hospital of East Los Angeles, which received one $50,000 fine;
- Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas, which received one $50,000 fine;
- Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, which received one $75,000 fine; and
- Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, which received one $25,000 fine (DPH release, 6/2).
Hospitals have 10 days to appeal the fines, Dickfoss said.
She noted that DPH is working with the penalized hospitals on new procedures that could prevent repeated errors. She added that if problems persist, the hospitals could lose their state operating license or their reimbursements from Medicare and Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 6/2).
Links and headlines to additional coverage of the hospital penalties are provided below.
- "State Fines Contra Costa Regional Medical Center $50,000 for Giving Wrong Medication to New Mom" (Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, 6/2).
- "East L.A. Hospital Fined $50,000 for Medication Mix-Up" (Girion, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 6/2).
- "Emanuel Hit with a $50K Fine" (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 6/3).
- "Anaheim Hospital Fined for Wrong-Side Surgery" (Perkes, Orange County Register, 6/2).
- "3 Bay Area Hospitals Cited for Serious Violations" (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3).
- "Dominican Hospital Fined $50,000 for Patient Death" (Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 6/2).