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San Diego Kaiser Hospital Fined For Removing Wrong Kidney

A San Diego hospital was among 10 medical centers across the state that were assessed administrative penalties today for actions that caused, or could have caused, serious injury or death to patients.

Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Diego.

According to state Department of Public Health officials, Kaiser Foundation Hospital failed to follow surgical policies and procedures in 2010, leading to a surgeon removing the wrong kidney from an 85-year-old man.

Hospital officials said that while extensive safety measures were in place, staffers acted quickly to identify the cause of the error and implemented safety measures to help ensure such an event would not be repeated.

"We sincerely regret that this error in 2010 occurred at the Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center. While these types of incidents are very rare, we take the matter extremely seriously,'' according to a hospital statement. "At the time of the incident, we immediately reported the matter to the California Department of Public Health, and fully cooperated with the investigation.''

The hospital was fined $75,000 -- the second administrative penalty the medical center has received.

The hospital was assessed a $50,000 penalty after a towel was left inside a patient who underwent surgery for gallstones in 2009, U-T San Diego reported.

The CDPH issued 12 penalties to hospitals in San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, San Rafael, Harbor City, Arcadia, Visalia, Mission Viejo, Fountain Valley and Crescent City.

Administrative penalties for incidents that happened before 2009 carried a fine of $25,000. For later incidents, $50,000 was assessed for a first violation, $75,000 for a second and $100,000 for subsequent violations. Incidents before 2009 were not included.

Hospitals were also required to provide a plan to prevent future incidents. Kaiser's plan included updated policies and procedures, and staff training "to prevent the reoccurrence of a surgical procedure being performed on a wrong body part.''

Surgeons and operating-room nurses will also ensure all relevant imaging studies are available and any surgical or invasive procedure for which an image was obtained will be available and reviewed, according to CDPH documents.

A multidisciplinary surgical safety team that meets weekly to discuss ideas for continuously promoting safe operating practices was implemented in May 2011, according to hospital officials.

Hospitals can appeal an administrative penalty by requesting a hearing within 10 days of the notification.

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