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April 15, 2010 - Sponge Left in Patient Brings Fine

The California Department of Public Health fined Scripps Mercy Hospital $25,000 for leaving a surgical sponge in a cervical cancer patient, officials say.

The sponge was left in a patient who underwent a 2007 hysterectomy at the Hillcrest hospital. She had to have additional surgery to remove it, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Wednesday.

This is the second penalty for Scripps Mercy Hospital since 2007, when California began punishing medical centers for preventable mistakes that put patients' lives in jeopardy.

Scripps quickly addressed the problem once it was discovered, Dr. Davis Cracroft, the hospital's senior medical director, said.

"Anytime there is an error, we look thoroughly into the cause of it," he said. "If it was human error, which a lot of these are, we try to correct it through education," he said.

The California Department of Public Health said it was going to levy fines ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 on seven hospitals in the state for incidents that caused or were likely to cause serious injury or death to patients, XETV, San Diego, reported.

"Ensuring quality patient care is vital to protecting and promoting the health of all Californians," said Dr. Mark Horton, director of CDPH. "We will continue to work with California hospitals to attain our shared goal of excellence in patient care."

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