Seven California hospitals face a total of $475,000 in fines for alleged code violations that include putting babies at risk for jaundice and leaving a sponge inside a woman after a cesarian section, state health officials said Tuesday.
The California Department of Public Health announced the 10 penalties, which ranged from $25,000 to $100,000, for hospitals in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco and Yolo counties.
As a result of inspections in September and November 2009, Southwest Healthcare System in Murietta faces three fines totaling $225,000.
Two of the fines center on babies at risk of hyperbilirubinemia, a condition that puts babies at risk for brain damage, disabilities and death, and can cause the yellowing of skin and tissues known as jaundice. The hospital allegedly failed to properly test for and identify the illness, and didn't provide new mothers with enough follow-up care and information.
The hospital denied the allegations and said the fines will be appealed, adding that they "neither caused, nor were likely to cause, serious injury or death to any patient," according to a statement provided by spokeswoman Teresa Fleege.
The hospital also said its procedures exceed national standards and that parents of all newborns cited in the hospital fine were provided follow-up instructions.
Southwest Healthcare also allegedly failed to maintain enough humidity in a room where three cesarian sections were performed, causing a fire risk.
The hospital said it cancelled all surgeries because of the unusual low humidity levels in the area that week.
Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Fontana faces two fines totaling $75,000, including one for allegedly leaving a sponge inside a woman after a C-section had been performed, requiring a second surgery to remove the object.
The other fine was issued because the hospital allegedly failed to "use towels or other protective material to protect against burns" before a hot, flash-sterilized instrument caused a patient 1st- and 2nd degree-burns.
In a statement, spokesman Jim Anderson said Kaiser regrets these incidents and "moved quickly to implement safeguards to prevent similar incidents in the future."
Kaiser now uses a special bag to collect sponges to reconcile the count and has provided additional training for operating room staff, he said. The hospital has also purchased additional tools to avoid using a hot sterile instrument in an urgent situation.
St. Joseph Hospital in Orange was fined $50,000 for an alleged failure to maintain its equipment that resulted in a respiratory patient being given an empty oxygen tank. The patient later died.
Sutter Davis Hospital in Davis was fined $25,000 for alleged failure in safe and effective administration of medication.
Other hospitals were fined for allegedly failing to follow surgical policies and procedures. They were: California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, fined $25,000; Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, fined $25,000; and St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino, fined $50,000.
The hospitals can appeal the fines within 10 days or submit correction plans outlining how errors will be avoided in the future.