More Government Fines Against Hospitals for Preventable Medical Errors

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

California, like New York State, has medical boards with the power to investigate an fine medical centers for serious medical errors. Some New York City hospitals have poor performance standards, and we often advise clients about their rights to report incidents to the appropriate medical board. This is especially true where the doctor’s behavior is egregious yet thankfully other medical staff catches the errors before tragedy occurs.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that area hospitals were fined over $750,000 for negligent acts in 2010 and 2011. These fines are not for “errors in judgment” but for grossly negligent, preventable acts. For instance, in one facility the wrong kidney was removed. A common yet very preventable act, one which we have settled and litigated claims for, is giving the wrong medicine. In a Southern California Kaiser hospital a patient was given a blood thinner instead of a blood coagulant, leading to excessive bleeding. In another instance, a San Francisco patient was given medication she was allergic to, something clearly noted in her medical chart. For that hospital, it was the sixth fine since 2007.

While surgeons and nurses are supposed to have a strict count of instruments and products at the end of the surgery, careless acts repeatedly occurs. We have represented more than a few patients who have had to be surgically re-opened to retrieve a tool or sponge. One recent California hospital was fined $50,000 for a forgotten sponge. Perhaps the saddest case reported was the death of a 29 year old Oakland patient getting simple laser surgery to remove a birth defect from her upper lip. That was a $100,000 fine. The article stated that the $9.6 million in fines has been assessed since 2007.

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