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Local Hospitals Fined For Errors that Led to Death, Brain Damage

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The state has fined a dozen hospitals in the state for making mistakes that killed or injured patients.

The mistakes run the gamut from giving methadone to the wrong patient to leaving a sponge inside a patient after surgery, because a nurse wanted to hurry off to her lunch break. State officials say these fines focus public attention on preventable medical errors.

"These penalties have raised awareness in the healthcare industry," Pam Dickfoss, acting deputy director of the Center for Health Care Quality, told The Los Angeles Times. "It is our expectation that these incidents will decrease over time."

Three of those hospitals fined are in Los Angeles County, and all of the mistakes happened in 2009:

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  • In 2009, a 48-year-old man undergoing surgery at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center suffered brain damage, after a nurse gave administered anesthesia without the supervision of a physician. The state fined the hospital $50,000. This is the fourth penalty the hospital has received.
  • Surgery staff left a bottle of lens defogging solution inside a patient, who underwent an operation to have a kidney removed in 2009 at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. The bottle was discovered when the patient returned to the medical center for another operation. Staff removed the lens defogger and the patient recovered. The penalty was $50,000, and it was the first for the hospital.
  • An 82-year-old man suffered from a fatal fall out of his wheelchair, while he was a patient at Brotman Medical Center in Culver City. He suffered bleeding in his skull and later died. The state found that the hospital didn't follow the proper procedures for preventing falls and fined it $50,000. The hospital had received one fine previously.