Healthy Choices

Sutter fined $50,000 for patient’s fall, death

Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento was one of three hospitals fined by California authorities on Thursday for failing to ensure the health and safety of a patient.

The unidentified patient, who reportedly appeared inebriated, had fallen in the emergency department, hitting his head and sustaining life-threatening injuries. He had been taken to the hospital by paramedics summoned by a taxi driver who reported the man stepped out of the cab in front of his home and crumpled to the ground, unable to get up.

After the fall in the emergency department, a nurse, who was also not named, failed to get medical attention for the patient, who later died in the hospital of multiple head and brain injuries. The nurse was fired, according to a report from the California Department of Public Health.

This was Sutter’s first administrative penalty, a fine of $50,000. Sutter is also required to provide state authorities with a plan of correction to prevent future incidents, a CDPH release said.

The safety of our patients is always a top priority. We are taking every precaution to ensure this situation won’t be repeated. Our Emergency Department staff has undergone additional education on assessing the risk of patients who may be prone to falling and on the use of the safety features available on our Emergency Department beds. Sutter Medical Center is dedicated to providing high quality, safe care.

In an email, Sutter spokesman Gary Zavoral said the hospital is “taking every precaution to ensure this situation won’t be repeated. Our Emergency Department staff has undergone additional education on assessing the risk of patients who may be prone to falling and on the use of the safety features available on our Emergency Department beds.”

Administrative penalties are issued under authority granted by the health and safety code. The other two hospitals fined were Alta Bates Summit Medical Center-Alta Bates Campus in Berkeley, which must pay $175,000, and Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, also with its first administrative penalty of $50,000.

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