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Health Department slaps RI Hospital with $300,000 fine

October 26, 2010

That tiny little piece of a drill bit surgeons left inside a patient turned out to be pretty expensive.

The Department of Health is fining Rhode Island Hospital $300,000 for its latest medical error.

Director Dr. David Gifford says an investigation found RI Hospital isn’t actively making sure its surgeons and operating room staff follow hospital policy.

RIH’s surgical count policy states that if a surgical tool or device is unaccounted for at the end of surgery, an x-ray of the patient should be done before the patient leaves the operating room to assure that the tool or device is not inside the patient. In this incident, no x-ray was taken and the surgical count was documented as correct.

Gifford details all of the hospital’s deficiencies here.

In addition to the fine, RI hospital must also submit to a full survey of the entire hospital to guarantee that it’s complying with the conditions for receiving reimbursements through Medicare.   The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) has also issued a document describing the mistakes RI Hospital made.

Medical errors is one Dr. Gifford’s top issues, and he seems unwilling to let RI Hospital’s mistakes fly.  Last year, he gave the medical center a $150,000 fine when surgeons operated on the wrong finger of a patient.  I’m waiting for a telephone interview with him, but in the press releases he says,

There is a troubling pattern of disregard for established policies that are designed to protect patient safety and prevent medical errors in Rhode Island Hospital’s operating rooms. When reports from staff about problems in the operating rooms are not adequately addressed, employees are less likely to speak up and report potential problems or concerns.

For more background, check out my earlier post about the error which tries to put these mistakes in context.

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