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6 Southern California hospitals fined for serious violations

The state orders the medical centers to pay $25,000 each in administrative penalties for incidents that in some cases led to death or injury.

September 04, 2009|Kimi Yoshino

Six Southern California hospitals have been fined $25,000 each in administrative penalties for serious violations that, in some cases, led to death or serious injury, according to state Department of Public Health officials.

Children's Hospital of Orange County was fined because its nursing staff failed to ensure appropriate drainage after a child's neurological procedure in November, an oversight that led to severe brain injury. Dr. Maria Minon, the hospital's chief medical officer, said the hospital "very much" regrets the incident and has adjusted protocols for patient care, increased staff training and added layers of checks and balances to minimize the chance of it occurring again.

Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach was fined for failing to continuously monitor a patient who was disconnected from a cardiac monitor for 34 minutes. The technician assigned to monitor the cardiac machines did not notice that the cardiac activity strip had abruptly flat-lined. The technician also did not hear the machine's alarm because the volume was not set on the highest level. The patient died a short time later.

Dr. Richard Afable, Hoag's president and chief executive, said the hospital determined that the technician had been assigned multiple duties and was distracted.

Additional staff has been added and duties eliminated from the technician's job to ensure that the cardiac unit's 30 monitors are more carefully watched.

The state also issued Southwest Healthcare Systems in Murrieta its third administrative penalty since 2007.

The state's investigation determined that, despite reported requests by state health officials, the overcrowded hospital continued to convert general surgery beds into intensive care beds without adequate staffing in June 2008.

The hospital issued a statement saying that it disputes the findings and would file an appeal. In the statement, the hospital said it used one surgical bed as an intensive care bed because all other beds were occupied.

"This episode should be hailed as a testament to the dedication and resourcefulness of the hard-working nurses and personnel at Southwest," the statement said.

Three hospitals -- Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in Los Angeles and South Coast Medical Center in Laguna Beach -- were each fined for not following proper surgical procedures. In each case, a second surgery had to be performed to remove surgical sponges or towels after they were detected in follow-up exams or when the patients complained of complications.

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kimi.yoshino@latimes.com

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