Hospital fined $300K for leaving drill bit in patient's head

Rhode Island Hospital was fined $300,000 by the state's Department of Health for leaving a broken drill bit in a surgery patient's skull. The penalty was the largest fine in state history and the third imposed against the hospital for surgical errors, reports the Providence Journal.

Health officials said hospital staff did not follow their own protocols in August that require X-rays of a patient if surgical equipment is missing at the end of a surgery. They were aware the drill bit had broken off, but never adequately accounted for the broken piece, notes the Journal.

Health officials also found that the hospital failed to appropriately address numerous staff reports of problems that could result in medical errors.

As a result, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has required Rhode Island Hospital undergo a full review to ensure it is in full compliance with CMS regulations.

"The bottom line is that mistakes like this should never occur even though we know that they happen at hospitals across the country," Rhode Island Hospital President and CEO Timothy Babineau said in a statement. "Each error contributes to an erosion of the essential trust between patient and hospital." He also avowed that the hospital has made "aggressive efforts" to implement the strongest and most effective policies to eliminate medical errors.

Yet, Director of Health David Gifford said the surgical error is part of a "troubling pattern of disregard for established policies that are designed to protect patient safety and prevent medical errors in Rhode Island Hospital's operating rooms," notes WPRI News.

Rhode Island Hospital must submit a plan of correction to the Department of Health by Nov. 10, and must pay the fine by Nov. 24, reports WPRI.

For more:
- read the Providence Journal article
- read this CNN Health piece
- here's the WPRI News article
- check out Rhode Island Hospital's statement