Several California hospitals are being penalized for offenses that caused or are likely to cause injuries or death to patients. One hospital is being fined for its contribution to the death of a patient after leaving a surgical sponge inside the patient.

Patient Death

The Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California, is facing $47,500 in fines after investigations by the California Department of Public Health (CPDH) revealed that one of the facility’s patient’s died after they left a surgical sponge inside the patient’s abdomen.

Evidently, the patient went to the hospital to bypass diseased large blood vessels in the groin and abdomen but ended up in the hospital again after the patient’s heart stopped. X-rays revealed that there was a sponge in the patient’s lower left abdomen, and unfortunately, the patient eventually passed away.


The CPDH’s investigation on the matter concluded that the surgical sponge left in the patient’s abdomen contributed to death. In a review of the autopsy, the patient’s cause of death was revealed to be peritonitis or an inflammation of tissues lining the wall of the abdomen, resulting from the surgical sponge that was left inside the patient’s body after the surgery.

In an interview, a nurse who was present during the surgery stated that she and the scrub technician counted all the sponges and that the count was accurate. However, she later stated that the bag in which the used sponges were placed had divisions and partitions, and that if the partitions separated, a single sponge would have looked like two sponges.

As such, the CPDH fined the hospital for noncompliance with the requirements of licensure that caused serious injury or death to a patient. It is Mercy Medical Center’s second Immediate Jeopardy administrative penalty.

Hospital Penalties

Along with the Mercy Medical Center, the CPDH also penalized four other hospitals for various offenses, all violations of which occurred in 2017. The Eisenhower Medical Center, Fresno Heart and Surgical Hospital, and Saddleback Memorial Medical Center were penalized, all of which were the hospitals’ first Immediate Jeopardy administrative penalties, while the University of California Irvine Medical Center got its sixth Immediate Jeopardy administrative penalty.

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