California Health Officials Fine Four Bay Area Hospitals for Causing ‘Serious Injury or Death' to Patients

California health officials are fining Redwood City-based Sequoia Hospital $47,452 for erroneously removing a patient’s ovaries last year.

The Peninsula facility is one of 14 hospitals facing 17 penalties issued by the California Department of Public Health on Thursday. Accused of not complying with “licensing requirements that caused, or were likely to cause, serious injury or death to patients,” the hospitals are being made to shell out a total fine of $1,135,980.

Including Sequoia, the Bay Area houses four of these hospitals: California Pacific Medical Center-St. Luke’s Campus Hospital and Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Francisco; and Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa.

According to the CDPH, doctors at Sequoia were supposed to surgically remove the patient’s uterus, fallopian tubes and appendix. But the procedure was entered incorrectly in the hospital's surgery log, leading to the removal of her ovaries. The report does not specify whether the woman’s ovaries were taken out instead of or along with the uterus, fallopian tubes and appendix, but says the patient will require lifelong estrogen replacement therapy as a result of the misstep.

Meanwhile, a St. Luke’s patient felt dizzy and fell off her bed, but was not put through hourly neurological checks as prescribed, the CDPH found. The woman hit her head and died despite undergoing emergency brain surgery, and the hospital is facing a $47,452 penalty.

Kaiser is being fined $147,025 for two separate incidents, both of which led to the deaths of patients in 2015 and 2016.

In the first, a dialysis patient suffered “massive blood less and cardiac arrest” when his femoral catheter got disconnected from his bloodline, both of which were under a blanket. In the second, the patient experienced “acute respiratory failure” after a tracheostomy tube cuff valve was mistakenly left inflated. The mismanagement of the tracheostomy – described by the CDPH as “a surgical procedure to create an opening through the neck into the trachea” – led to the patient dying.

At Queen of the Valley, three separate incidents in 2013 in which hospital staff didn’t track patients’ symptoms and administered incorrect treatment, resulted in two deaths while the third patient is left in a vegetative state. The CDPH has levied a $225,000 fine on the Napa hospital for its mistakes.

Other hospitals on the CDPH list are LAC/Harbor UCLA Medical Center in Torrance; Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara; Bakersfield Memorial Hospital in Bakersfield; Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs; and Sutter Davis Hospital in Davis.

The CDPH says regulations adopted in 2014 allow the agency to issue up to $75,000 in fines for a hospital's first administrative penalty, up to $100,000 for the second, and up to $125,000 for the third and every following violation within three years. Penalized hospitals are required to put forth a plan of correction, and have 10 days to appeal the fine. 

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