Hospital fined for leaving towel inside patient for three months after surgery

FRESNO, CA (WCMH) — A hospital in Fresno, California will have to pay an $86,000 fine for a mistake that nearly cost a patient his life by leaving a towel inside his body following surgery.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a patient went to the Community Regional Medical Center to remove his bladder and prostate in April of 2014. Weeks after the procedure, the patient noted that he was feeling worse, not better.

“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,” the patient stated.

The patent went back to doctor to report his growing symptoms, and the doctor discovered a mass inside his body, KFSN-TV reports. The doctor informed the patient they would need to do another surgery.

The patient feared he might have cancer.

During that second surgery in July, doctors discovered the mass inside his body was in fact a blue towel that had been left behind from the first surgery. The towel hadn’t been discovered during an x-ray following his original surgery because the material doesn’t show up on x-ray.

The state put full blame on the hospital for not having a procedure in place to count “blue towels” which then “resulted in preventable pain, emotional and psychological suffering, injury and harm.”

The hospital later issued a statement saying, in part: “As a result of this regrettable incident, we completed corrective steps that were approved by the state.” Those new steps include a procedure to make sure no medical tools or blue towels are left behind in a patient’s body during surgery.

On top of the fine, the hospital could face a lawsuit from the patient.

“I think the hospital is on the line,” legal analyst Tony Capozzi told KFSN-TV. “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.”

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