California Hospitals Fined for Medical Negligence
Throughout California, numerous local hospitals have recently been fined for various acts of medical negligence and intentional wrongdoing. In Southern California alone, six hospitals were fined for healthcare violations, totalling $825,000.
“Victims of hospital or provider negligence need to understand their legal rights in order to protect them,” explained California personal injury lawyer James Ballidis.
The reasons for the fines imposed on the Southern California hospitals varied. Southwest Healthcare System, for example, was fined for failure to respond properly to signs of fetal distress. The infant was born dead and Southwest was required to pay an administrative fine of $100,000, the largest monetary penalty that the California Department of Public Health can impose.
Other reasons for the fines included a male nurse sexually assaulting and exposing himself to a female patient; physicians leaving surgical equipment or material inside of patients, including a 2-foot-long surgical towel that remained in a 69-year-old's abdomen for 16 months; and the forcible ejection of a patient from a hospital.
The problem of hospital negligence is not limited to Southern California hospitals. Four hospitals in the Bay Area were fined a total of $275,000 for negligence. One hospital was fined when a physician left surgical equipment inside of the patient, in this case, a sponge during an emergency cesarean. The other hospitals were fined for failing to follow proper procedures related to inserting feeding tubes; cardiac care and ongoing patient assessment.
Recourse for Injured Victims
The fines levied by the California Department of Public Health are intended to service the agency’s goal, which the Deputy Director indicated was to "improve the quality of healthcare at all California hospitals." In order to further that aim, CDPH officials hope to increase penalties assessed against careless hospitals in 2013. The penalties are currently set at $50,000 for first-time violations, $75,000 for second-time offenders and $100,000 for any further hospital errors or incidents of negligence.
To try to protect patients and ensure that hospitals are monitored appropriately, medical staff in California must report adverse events to the California Department of Health Services within five days of their occurrence. Adverse events can include surgery on the wrong body parts, surgical devices left inside the body, contaminated drugs, death after a low-risk surgery and other related events.
Often the best way for a patient or family members of an injured patient to respond to an incident of medical negligence is to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. California law allows for the victims of medical malpractice to seek compensation whenever a physician or hospital provides insufficient or poor care.
Hospitals and medical staff are held to a professional standard of negligence, which means that negligence and legal liability is determined in light of what would have been reasonable and appropriate given the specific professional accreditations and qualifications of the hospital and staff. If a hospital is found to have provided care below the standard that a reasonable hospital or healthcare provider would have offered, the hospital can be considered negligent.
California malpractice and tort laws allow for injured victims to recover compensation for all medical costs for treatment that arises because of a hospital's negligence as well as for lost wages. California law also allows for recovery for non-economic loss up to a statutory maximum of $250,000.
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