San Pablo hospital fined $50,000

August 19, 2008 3:47:20 PM PDT
A San Pablo hospital is being fined $50,000 for actions by hospital staff that the state public health department claims led to the deaths of two patients last year.

Doctors Medical Center was one of 18 hospitals statewide to be issued administrative penalties by the California Department of Public Health for purportedly jeopardizing patients' health, the state agency announced today.

The hospital is appealing the penalties and disputing the state agency's findings, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The first of two $25,000 penalties the medical center faces stems from the death of a patient on Sept. 3, 2007.

A report posted on the public health department's Web site states that nursing staff failed to properly monitor the diabetic patient's glucose levels and treat hypoglycemia.

The patient had been admitted to the hospital on Aug. 17 with diagnoses of diabetes and end-stage renal disease.

The report claims that on Sept. 2, hospital staff should have implemented "hypoglycemia protocol" when it was determined that the patient's blood-glucose level was below a certain level.

The patient died of cardiopulmonary arrest at 5:13 a.m. the next day.

The second death occurred on Sept. 14, 2007. That patient had been admitted to the hospital on Aug. 18 with a diagnosis of an "altered level of consciousness," according to a report on the health department's Web site.

The report states that during the patient's stay, nursing staff at the hospital failed to follow procedures and inserted a catheter into a vein "without the required demonstrated competencies in the performance of the procedure."

The patient suffered cardiopulmonary arrest during a computed tomography, or CT, scan and died from an air embolism on at 3:25 a.m. on Sept. 14, according to the report.

"Ensuring all Californians receive quality patient care is our top priority," Karen Billingsley, deputy director of the Center for Health Care Quality at the California Department of Public Health, said in a prepared statement.

Gisela Hernandez, spokeswoman for Doctors Medical Center, said the hospital disputes that it is responsible for the two deaths.

"We sincerely regret that the events ever occurred," she said. "However, we disagree with the state's findings and we are appealing the citations."

"The hospital reviewed the incidents thoroughly ... then we reported them to the state," Hernandez said. "The state also came in at some point and reviewed these incidents. They, too, were not able to find a correlation between the events and the adverse patient outcome."

In the wake of the deaths the hospital provided "aggressive internal education," Hernandez said.

"We take patient care very seriously," she said.

Last week, a federal bankruptcy judge in Oakland approved a plan for the West Contra Costa Healthcare District, which operates Doctors Medical Center, to emerge from bankruptcy. The plan takes effect today.


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