A years-long case against Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, California has finally come to a close, with judges deciding to fine the hospital after what they did to one patient.
The unidentified patient had a surgery in the hospital from which he just couldn’t recover. Doctors determined that he can grown a huge cancerous mass in his stomach which required an operation to remove.
What they found inside the patient’s stomach, however, was not your regular tumor.
It was a towel.
Left behind by the surgeons that operation on the patient the first time around. In an incredibly embarrassing episode for the hospital, the found themselves on trial.
Community Regional Medical Center has now been fined $86,000 by the state of California for the surgical error.
Legal analyst Tony Capozzi says that the hospital may end up paying much more than the $86,000 paid to the state initially, however.
“I think the hospital is on the line,” Capozzi said. “Not only for penalties from the state , but a lawsuit that is going to show. I believe very gross, gross negligence in this case. Which may open them up to punitive damages to punish them for what happened.”
The patient reportedly returned to the hospital following the procedure to find out why he was feeling worse. It was then that doctors told him there was a mass inside of him.
“I was so scared when I was told about the abdominal mass because I knew something was wrong and I thought I must be full of cancer,” the patient said.
Hospital administrators issued a statement regarding the incident, which reads in part, “As a result of this regrettable incident, we completed corrective steps that were approved by the state.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, the hospital refused to comment on whether or not any surgeons or operating room nurses were disciplined following the incident, or whether the surgeon responsible continues to perform surgery at the hospital.
The director and manager of the hospital were quoted in a report on the incident as saying that the surgical team and operating room staff was “devastated” upon hearing that the towel had been left inside the patient’s body. The director of surgical services said that no member of the staff recalled the towel going into the patient’s body, but said that “the towel was obviously overlooked because what goes in is supposed to come out, and that did not happen in this case.”
The hospital has since ordered that all surgical towels must be counted in the operating room.
“In the report, the state says this was a preventable action that caused emotional distress, psychological injury, pain suffering, for this particular patient,” Capozzi said. “But for what happened at that hospital, he should not have gone through all the agony.”