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4 Bay Area Hospitals Fined Nearly $500,000 For Improper Care

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – State healthcare regulators Thursday announced several fines against four Bay Area hospitals for failures to properly care for patients.

The California Department of Public Health issued six fines totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars against Napa's Queen of the Valley Medical Center, the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City and the California Pacific Medical Center's St. Luke Campus in San Francisco.

Queen of the Valley received three fines—more than any other hospital on the list—totaling $225,000 for cases involving three different patients who were the victims of substandard care in 2013.

In one case, a patient came into the hospital's heart monitor, or telemetry, unit while she was recovering from surgical repairs to facial fractures.

She had gauze or cotton packed into her nasal cavity and her jaw was wired shut.

The hospital failed to make sure nursing staff "provided ongoing assessments" of the patient's changing condition, including bleeding down the back of her throat and trouble breathing, according to a 2015 Public Health report.

The patient eventually suffered "a respiratory arrest," sustained a brain injury due to lack of oxygen and she slipped into a "persistent vegetative state," according to the report.

The state fined Queen of the Valley $100,000 for its lapses in this case.

In another case, for which the hospital was fined $50,000, the state found that nursing staff failed to provide continuous heart and breathing monitoring and breathing assistance for a patient who ultimately died.

"We deeply regret that these incidents occurred," Queen of the Valley's Chief Executive Larry Coomes said in a statement Thursday. "In keeping with our commitment to a culture of integrity, active compliance and the delivery of the highest-quality care, we self-reported these events to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) at the time and took immediate action to prevent any such event from happening in the future."

The hospital submitted plans, accepted by state health officials, that are intended help it avoid similar problems in the future.

The Kaiser hospital in San Francisco received two fines totaling $147,000 for a pair of 2016 incidents in which two patients died.

In one incident, hospital staff failed to properly use dialysis equipment and a tube used for extracting blood from a patient's femoral artery came loose, according to a Public Health report.

The patient suffered "massive blood loss and cardiac arrest" and died two days later.

In the other case, hospital staff's failure to properly use a tracheotomy tube led to a patient's death, according to the report.

"We sincerely regret that these incidents occurred and extend our sympathy to the families involved," said Barbara Crawford, Kaiser's vice president of quality and regulatory services, behavioral health and performance improvement. "While such cases are rare, we take full responsibility for the provision of safe, quality care to our patients."

Kaiser has "implemented systemic improvements and training for our nurses, physicians, and staff," which have been approved by state regulators, according to Crawford.

In other cases involving Bay Area hospitals, Sequoia Hospital was fined $47,452.50 for mistakenly removing a patient's ovaries in 2016 and the California Pacific Medical Center's St. Luke Campus was fined $47,452.50 for not properly caring for a woman who fell and hit her head in the hospital and subsequently died following brain surgery.

Both hospitals have also submitted plans to the state that are intended to help them avoid similar mistakes in the future.

© Copyright 2017 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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