Medical Errors Abound

Amid the debate over so called medical malpractice reform, the rights of patients seem to be getting sacrificed for the profit of large insurance companies. A recent report from California demonstrates why the right of patients to redress in courts cannot be curtailed.
According to published reports the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently issued administrative penalties to 11 California hospitals, each of which has been “fined $25,000 for alleged regulation violations that caused injury or death to patients. The violations included failures in care, such as leaving sponges or other surgical tools inside patients and failures in communication between hospital departments or inadequate nurse training.
All of the hospitals must submit a plan of correction to the state, which outlines how the violations would be avoided in the future. The hospitals also have the right to appeal the citations within 10 days.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune since state health officials started assessing the penalties in 2007, they have found that medication mixups and surgical objects left in patients’ bodies are the most common errors. Those two categories account for more than half of all ‘immediate jeopardy’ mistakes reported by hospitals in California.
The Los Angeles Times reported that USC University Hospital was fined after mixing up two patients’ test results, mistakenly telling a patient with a broken leg that he had cancer in August 2007 and unnecessarily amputating his leg. The hospital was also fined $30,300 for failing to report the incident, but hospital officials have appealed that fine. Tenet Health Corp. sold the hospital to the university in April, and state officials emphasized that the fine was against Tenet, not the university.
According to the San Francisco Business Times, Sutter Health’s Alta Bates/Summit Medical Center in the East Bay was fined because staff left a ring sizer in a patient’s heart during surgery late last year. The ring sizer was left in the patient’s heart on Dec. 11, 2008 and discovered until Dec. 22 when the patient received a CT scan to determine why he had breathing problems. The ring was removed Dec. 25, but the patient suffered more complications following that procedure, including kidney failure.
A surgery technician told state investigators he noticed the ring sizer was missing from its handle before he was relieved for a lunch break. Nothing was said about it when he returned from lunch, so he assumed it had been found.

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