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Five San Diego Hospitals Are Fined For Errors Or Negligence

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Aired 6/2/11

Five San Diego hospitals were hit with tens of thousands of dollars in fines for medical mistakes. Three of those incidents resulted in patient deaths.

— The State of California announced 12 fines for medical mistakes this morning. Five were levied against San Diego hospitals. In three of those San Diego cases, the mistakes resulted in patient deaths.

The California Department of Public Health has been fining hospitals for errors or negligence since 2007. The fines announced today ranged from $25,000 to $75,000, depending on the year the mistake occurred and how many times a hospital has been hit with administrative penalties.

In San Diego County, the state fined Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, Pomerado Hospital in Poway and Sharp Medical Center in San Diego. Two Scripps hospitals, one in La Jolla and one in Encinitas, also received fines. This was the third administrative penalty that’s been brought against Pomerado Hospital.

State regulators said they targeted their fines at incidents that harm patients or seriously endanger them.

“They were all serious infractions that do affect patient safety,” said Pam Dickfoss, with the California Department of Public Health.

Department records show patients died after being given drug overdoses at Sharp Memorial Hospital and Palomar Medical Center. At Pomerado Hospital a patient, described as confused and agitated, suffered brain injury after a fall. He died four days later. At both Scripps Hospitals, staff left medical devices inside patients following surgery.

Dickfoss said all of the hospitals took the errors very seriously and “took swift action.” Scripps issued a statement, saying that errors at their hospitals are "rare" and the hospitals responded appropriately after the mistakes occurred.

"We have put in place changes in our processes to prevent events such as these from occurring in the future," the statement said.

A statement by Palomar Pomerado Health said they self-reported the mistakes at their hospitals, and all of their follow-up actions were accepted by the California Department of Public Health. Any hospital that disagrees with a state finding of medical error has 10 days to appeal.

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