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3 Bay Area Hospitals Fined For Errors That Could Have Killed Patients

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The California Department of Public Health Wednesday announced penalties against 12 California hospitals for errors with the potential to kill or injure patients including three in the Bay Area and one in Monterey County.

Seton Medical Center in Daly City, California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae were among the hospitals ordered to pay fines for violations of licensing requirements.

Seton was fined $50,000 in connection with a July 2012 incident in which a patient with cardiac issues and a history of falls fell in a shower while hospitalized and suffered a bump to her head, health department officials said in a report on the incident.

The hospital did not have a policy in place for dealing with patient falls, as required by state law, and nurses did not conduct a thorough check of the patient after the fall, according to the report. The next day she began to show signs of changes in her gait, followed by mental and physical deterioration. She was declared brain dead just a few days later.

California Pacific Medical Center was fined $75,000 for a May 2013 incident in which an item was left inside a patient following a hysterectomy.  The surgeon and other operating room personnel failed to count the item or notice it was missing after the surgery.

The error was not discovered until the patient came to the emergency room a week later complaining of abdominal pain and fever. The object was removed and the patient was hospitalized for three days for treatment with antibiotics.

Marin General Hospital was fined $100,000 for an August 2013 incident in which a disposable scalp clip was left inside a patient's skull following cranial surgery. The clip was discovered in a brain scan after the surgery and removed in a second surgical procedure two days later.

Hospital staff did not have a procedure in place counting the disposable scalp clips, according to a health department report on the incident.

In Monterey County, Community Hospital of Monterey was fined $50,000 for an incident reported in November of 2013 in which a patient was accidentally given a dose of an intravenous drug called Neo-Synephrine after surgery to remove plaque from her carotid arteries. The accidental dose occurred when a nurse opened a clamp in an IV that had been left attached to a bag of the drug.

The Neo-Synephrine, which was intended for use with anesthesia during the surgery, caused an increase in the patient's blood pressure and contributed to major complications she developed including bleeding and brain damage. The patient died 11 days later.

Penalties levied on hospitals vary depending on the date on which the violation occurred and the number of violations a hospital has had during a given time period, health department officials said.

Hospitals can appeal an administrative penalty by requesting a hearing.

© Copyright 2015 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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