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California Hospital Fined After Surgeon Accidentally Leaves Towel Inside Patient

A hospital in California has been fined approximately $86,000 after a surgeon accidentally left a towel inside a patient’s stomach during a surgical procedure.

According to Health Leaders Media, the patient was being treated at the Community Regional Medical Center in the Fresno area two years ago. Just weeks after having the operation, the patient noticed that something was wrong and said that he was on the verge of dying.

In April 2014, the patient, who wishes to remain anonymous, underwent a surgical procedure to have both his bladder and prostate removed at CRMC. Instead of feeling better after the surgery, the patient noted that he was feeling much worse.

According to a report that was recently released by the Department of Public Health, the patient stated, “By 5/10/14, l had lost 43 pounds, my bowels were not working right, I had no energy, no stamina, and I felt like I might not live.”

According to KTRK-TV, when the patient went back to the doctor to report the numerous problems he was having, he was told that there was some kind of mass inside his body. The doctor then told the patient that they would have to perform another operation on 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 told investigators.

During the second operation that took place in July, doctors discovered that the mass was indeed a blue towel that somehow ended up being left behind in the patient’s stomach from the previous surgery he had. The towel didn’t appear on the x-ray due to the fact that the material usually doesn’t show up in an x-ray image anyway.

Apparently, the surgeons at the California hospital were only keeping track of the medical tools they were using on the patient, not the blue towels. Since the incident, the hospital has decided to change its protocol after the surgical procedure nearly cost the patient to lose his life.

Hospital personnel didn’t want to participate in an over-the-air interview. Instead, they provided a detailed statement regarding the incident and how changes have been made as well.

“As a result of this regrettable incident, we completed corrective steps that were approved by the state and included a thorough investigation of our policies, adjustments in our procedures and appropriate training of our staff,” said Michelle Von Tersch, the vice president of corporate communications for Community Medical Centers.

Tony Capozzi, who is a legal analyst for KFSN, said in a statement that besides the hospital being fined $86,000, a lawsuit will also be in store for them.

“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 hospital has now implemented a towel-counting process that will be taken place during all surgical procedures. Capozzi said investigators have made it clear that the hospital will have to do a better job of following protocol before, during, and after the surgeries.

“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.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, this is the fourth penalty that was issued to the hospital from the California Department of Public Health since the year 2007.

[Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]