Pharmacy and Surgical Errors Lead to Hefty Fines for Hospitals

The California Department of Public Health recently issued fines for ten hospitals in that state, totaling $785,00 in penalties for medical errors that occurred between 2010 and 2011. Under California state law, hospitals are required to report errors to the state. The state decides the appropriate penalties and announces both the errors and the penalties in an effort to reduce surgical and medication mistakes, according to a recent article in the L.A. Times.

The article describes one of the errors as involving a patient who died after mistakenly being given a blood thinner instead of a procoagulate (having the opposite effect from what the desired medicine would have done). Another of the errors involved a nurse practitioner prescribing a medicine to which the patient was allergic, resulting in the patient’s spending time in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Many of the hospitals have described measures they have taken to reduce the risk of error. In the case of patient allergies to specific medicines, the hospital apparently re-trained staff on procedures regarding allergies and implemented a new electronic health records system that makes patient information easier to access.

No system can prevent all errors, but publicly fining hospitals for medical and pharmacy errors is absolutely a step in the right direction for preventing these types injuries in the future. With greater awareness of the issues pervasive in medicine and surgery, we can hope that errors will become fewer and fewer. However, as long as there are similarly named medications, or drastically different pills that resemble each other in size, color, or shape, we will still face the risk of pharmacy errors.

Maryland and many other states impose requirements on hospitals similar to those in California. Under Maryland law, hospitals must report any serious errors that affect patients during treatment. In addition to reporting the errors, hospitals must also analyze how and why the error occurred. Unlike California, however, Maryland has traditionally not identified by name the hospitals that report errors.

This difference may have both positive and negative effects. On the one hand, it may encourage higher levels of reporting by allowing for some degree of anonymity. However, hospitals who fail to report may be subject to even harsher sanctions than mere monetary fines, so the costs of being caught failing to report may outweigh any potential benefits. On the other hand, it creates less accountability and allows hospitals with broken systems to remain quietly broken.

If you have been injured as a result of medical negligence or a pharmacy error, an experienced Maryland pharmacy error attorney can help you identify the responsible parties and formulate a strategy for recovering the compensation you deserve.

At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we are committed to providing high quality legal service to individuals in Maryland injured at the hands of physicians, pharmacists, or other medical professionals. For a free confidential consultation, contact us online, or call us toll-free at 800-654-1949.

Related Blog Posts:
In an Effort to Reduce Medication Errors, San Diego Hospital Implements High Tech Program, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, December 19, 2012
VA Hospital Ruled Not Liable for Medication Error of Contract Anesthesiologist: Bethel v. US, Court of Appeals, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, November 18, 2012

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