UCI Medical Center, 4 Other SoCal Hospitals Fined for Patient Safety Violations Leading to 3 Deaths, 2 Injuries

The UCI Medical Center in Orange is seen in a Google Maps street view image on Feb. 9, 2019.

The UCI Medical Center in Orange is seen in a Google Maps street view image on Feb. 9, 2019.

Five hospitals in Southern California were fined a total of $258,025 for patient safety violations, including leaving sponges in patients and giving an extremely high chemotherapy drug dosage to a cancer patient, the California Department of Public Health said Thursday in a news release.

The hospitals, Eisenhower Medical Center in Riverside County, Fresno Heart and Surgical Hospital in Fresno,  Mercy Medical Center in Shasta County and Saddleback Memorial Medical Center and University of California Irvine Medical Center in Orange County, were all penalized and fined for not following patient safety procedures in incidents from 2017.

A brain cancer patient at the UCI medical center was given 200 times the prescribed dose of chemotherapy drug, Etoposide, on Nov. 14, 2017, investigators found.

As a result, the patient experienced an “immediate adverse reaction,” was hospitalized for “a rapid progressive decline in neurological status,” and lost consciousness over the following two weeks, according to a state investigators’ report.

The patient died months later.

The medical center was fined a penalty of $47,025, the hospital’s sixth “immediate jeopardy” penalty, according to the state’s public health department.

A spokesman for UCI Health told the OC Register that the group took the matter seriously.

“UCI Health conducted a thorough review of our processes and procedures to determine how and where the system failed,” he told the Register. “We identified ways to improve the management and handling of high-risk medications across our organization, including changes in pharmacy, nursing and physician practices.”

At Saddleback Memorial on July 22, 2017, a nurse left unattended three patients who were on legal hold for being dangers to themselves, an investigators’ report said.

During that time, one of the patients, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ran out of the hospital onto a freeway, where a vehicle struck and killed him, according to the report.

Saddleback Memorial was fined $71,250.

That same year, a patient came into the emergency room at Eisenhower Medical Center, suffering from an irregular heartbeat.

The physician then “incorrectly” used a defibrillator on the 51-year-old woman, causing her to go into cardiac arrest, a report said.

The woman woke up at the hospital with a breathing tube in her mouth, experiencing severe pain in one of her hands, she told investigators.

The IV she had in her hand had leaked outside the vein.

The hand then started to turn black and doctors told her that it had to be amputated. She underwent several procedures, ultimately suffering loss of function in her right arm, the report said.

The medical center’s penalty was $49,500.

In another incident, surgeons at Fresno Heart and Surgical Hospital left a sponge inside a patient for 27 days, investigators said.

The patient had to undergo a second surgery to remove the sponge, and was hospitalized to undergo antibiotic therapy. The hospital was fined $42,750, the investigators’ report said.

Another patient at Mercy Medical Center died after a sponge was left inside his or her stomach after a surgery, ultimately infecting the patient’s stomach lining, a report said.

In addition to the fines, California Department of Public Health required all the hospitals to make changes and work to prevent future safety violations.

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