SAN FRANCISCO (CS SF) – Four Bay Area hospitals were issued a total of $275,000 in penalties by the California Department of Public Health for noncompliance with policies and administrative errors that could have resulted in serious injury or death, the state agency announced Friday.

Nine other hospitals outside of the Bay Area were also issued a total of $550,000 in penalties by the state for similar violations.

Kaiser Permanente’s San Francisco Medical Center was fined $75,000 for allegedly failing to follow surgical policies and procedures, resulting in a patient having to undergo additional surgery to remove a foreign object left behind during a medical procedure, according to CDPH.

Another San Francisco hospital, Chinese Hospital, was fined $50,000 — the amount for a first-time offense – for failing to follow procedures related to feeding tube insertion.

CDPH officials levied a $75,000 fine against Kaiser’s Oakland Medical Center, which allegedly did not follow procedures related to its cardiac paging system.

Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose will have to pay a $75,000 penalty for failing to provide ongoing assessment of a patient, according to CDPH.

The penalties vary in amount depending on the number of previous offenses. For incidents that occurred in 2009 or later, a first violation carries a fine of $50,000, which increases to $75,000 for second violations and $100,000 for subsequent violations. Violations that occurred before 2009 are not counted when determining a fine.

The penalties are issued under provisions outlined in the state Health and Safety Code.

CDPH Deputy Director Debby Rogers said that the penalties are issued for violations or deficiencies that constitute an “immediate jeopardy” to patients and that hospitals have the ability to appeal the CDPH decisions.

“Our goal at the Department of Public Health is to improve the quality of healthcare at all California hospitals,” Rogers said.

CDPH is working to increase the penalties by $25,000 each, Rogers said, and on “additional enforcement tools to assist the department in holding providers accountable,” which CDPH hopes to implement in 2013.

In the time since a 2007 state Senate bill granted CDPH the authority to levy penalties against hospitals, the department has issued 224 administrative penalties to 129 California hospitals, according to Rogers.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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