Illinois patients may assume that hospitals are safe places for receiving medical treatment, undergoing surgery or giving birth. Although this is true in many cases, there are also numerous instances of medical malpractice that occur at our nation’s hospitals each year. Unfortunately, hospital mistakes that should have been prevented can potentially cause patients to suffer severe or fatal health complications.
We have discussed many different instances of hospital negligence that have affected Chicago patients and other patients across the country on our medical malpractice law blog, but many of these incidents have been isolated events at specific hospitals. In a recent investigation, it was discovered that one hospital’s simple mistake may have affected thousands of patients over a period of three years. At least two deaths have been linked to the hospital error.
Kaiser Foundation Hospital South San Francisco is being fined $50,000 for administering vaccines and medications to patients that were not stored properly at the facility. According to an investigation, the medications and vaccines were refrigerated at a freezing temperature when they should have been stored at a higher temperature between 2006 and 2009.
Over the 32-month period, the investigation found that insulin, skin tests and about 78 vaccines and medicines used to help prevent a number of diseases and illnesses were stored improperly and given to roughly 4,000 patients.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), improperly refrigerated medications and vaccines can lose potency, no longer fully providing an individual with the medical benefits one should receive from the drug.
The blame was placed by the hospital upon an engineer who had maintenance checks scheduled incorrectly, and defended its staff members against any mistake on their part. However, the Department of Public Health said that although all patients were in danger of suffering side effects or other problems from being given drugs that were potentially compromised the hospital only notified those who were at high risk of suffering complications when the problem was discovered. Instead, the hospital should have immediately notified all of the patients that were affected by the mistake.
Two patients over the age of 80 who had been given vaccines to prevent pneumonia later died after contracting the illness. One of the patients was never notified that the vaccine was not stored properly.
Patients who had been administered the medications in question were either given replacement drugs or re-vaccinated, though it was discovered not all received the correct vaccine.
Source: The Bay Citizen, “Medication Storage Error Affects Thousands of Kaiser Patients,” Katharine Mieszkowski, Dec. 8 2011