18 California Hospitals Fined for Healthcare Violations

August 19, 2008 Updated: August 19, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO— Eighteen hospitals located mostly in Southern California have been hit with penalties of $25,000 per incident for placing their patients’ lives in serious jeopardy, the California State Department of Public Health announced on Monday.

The hospitals were fined after the health department determined that healthcare safety violations caused or were likely to cause serious injury or death to patients.

For the fourth time, the State’s healthcare department has disciplined hospitals since a state law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger went into effect in Jan. 2007, authorizing the agency to fine general acute care and psychiatric hospitals.

Since last year, the health department has issued 61 such penalties to 42 hospitals.

“We will continue to work with California hospitals to ensure excellence in patient care,” said Kathleen Billingsley, a Deputy Director of the health department in a statement. “Ensuring all Californians receive quality patient care is our top priority.”

Anaheim General Hospital in Orange County was fined for failing to ensure that the patients were protected from extreme environmental temperatures, among other violations. The hospital also failed to ensure safety of medication requiring refrigeration.

The Coastal Communities Hospital in Santa Ana, Orange County was issued a fine for failing to ensure the safety of a patient. An excessive dose of a medication was administered resulting in the patient’s death.

The Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, Contra Costa County failed to ensure that licensed staff were competent and trained to insert intravenous catheters. One patient died as a result of the lack of competent insertion of the catheter.

Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, in Orange County failed to ensure that retention of surgical sponges after surgery did not occur. As a result, a patient had to undergo a second surgery to remove a sponge that was left in the patient during a previous operation.

Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, Orange County failed to ensure retention of surgical instruments and a patient had to undergo a second surgery to remove a surgical instrument left in the patient during an operation.

Los Alamitos Medical Center, in Orange County was fined after the facility staff failed to use a seatbelt while the patient was in a wheelchair. The patient fell and died due to the fall.

Palomar Pomerado Health System in San Diego County failed to maintain its anesthesia equipment in proper functioning order. As a result, three patients experienced awareness during surgical procedures.

Facilities can appeal administrative penalties by requesting a hearing within 10 calendar days of notification. In addition to the fines, offenders are required to implement a plan of correction to prevent future incidents.