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San Diego Hospitals Fined for Medical Mistakes that Harmed Patients

Doctors in HospitalThree San Diego hospitals are among the facilities penalized by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) for medical mistakes that caused serious patient harm. Sharp Coronado Hospital, Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, and Vibra Hospital must pay thousands of dollars in penalties.

The investigations and resulting fines highlight that many California hospitals frequently place their patients in danger by failing to follow proper policies and procedures. Even more alarming, the injuries caused by medical malpractice are almost always preventable.

All the hospitals were assessed an “Immediate Jeopardy” administrative penalty, which is imposed when a situation in which the hospital’s noncompliance with one or more requirements of licensure has caused or is likely to cause serious injury or death to the patient. The penalties totaled $618,002 and related to mistakes ranging from foreign objects left in the body after surgery to improper assessment.

According to the CDPH investigative report, Vibra Hospital of San Diego failed to ensure the health and safety of a patient when it did not follow established policies and procedures regarding assessing the risk of patient falls and preventing them. As a result, a patient who had been admitted with multiple skin infections, a brain disorder and other serious medical issues suffered a fatal fall. The $100,000 penalty is the hospital’s second Immediate Jeopardy administrative penalty.

The CDPH maintained that Sharp Coronado Hospital and Healthcare Center failed to ensure that its Emergency Department (ED) triage policy was implemented when a patient arrived to the ED asking to speak with a doctor. Approximately one hour after arrival to the ED, when the patient was called for triage, staff found him in the locked ED waiting room restroom. He had attempted suicide, and was found with a belt around his neck and suspended from a hook on the wall. The patient’s condition was exacerbated because the responding nurse was not properly trained to quickly unlock the bathroom door. The patient was deprived of oxygen for so long that he suffered severe brain damage and remained on a breathing machine with a feeding tube in his stomach when he was discharged 21 days later. The $47,025 penalty is the hospital’s first Immediate Jeopardy administrative penalty.

Sharp Memorial Hospital was fined for leaving a sponge inside a woman who underwent a C-section. According to the CDPH’s report, the hospital failed to verify that operating room staff implemented the hospital's policy and procedure for conducting a complete count of lap sponges (gauze material used to absorb body fluid during surgery). This failure resulted in an 18-inch by 18-inch lap sponge being left undetected in the patient’s abdominal cavity for a period of 11 weeks. She required an additional surgery, which included removing not just scar tissue, but also the right fallopian tube and part of the colon. The facility was fined $86,625. This is the hospital’s fifth Immediate Jeopardy administrative penalty.

Other California hospitals fined by the CDPH included:

  • Kaiser Foundation Hospital, Los Angeles: $75,000
  • Kindred Hospital South Bay, Gardena: $71,250
  • Loma Linda University Medical Center, Murietta: $42,750
  • Mission Community Hospital, Panorama City: $50,000
  • St. Joseph Hospital, Eureka: $40,000
  • Valley Children’s Hospital, Madera: $71,962

At the Law Offices of Robert Vaage, our San Diego medical malpractice lawyers are here to help victims of medical negligence and oversight. Contact ustoday to schedule a free consultation.