State: Bakersfield Memorial Hospital fined $75,000 for failing to ensure patient's health

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Bakersfield Memorial Hospital was slapped with a $75,000 fine for failing to ensure the health and safety of a patient, the California Department of Public Health announced Thursday.

State health officials said Memorial did not follow established policies and procedures regarding the safety of a patient in 2016.  This is the hospital's first immediate jeopardy administrative penalty, officials said.

Documents said a patient who had undergone brain surgery exhibited a tendency in the hospital to eat too quickly and almost choked several times. 

Finally, state health department reports said, the patient "died after choking on food which blocked the airway."

State health officials issued 17 penalties Thursday to 14 California hospitals, which include Memorial, along with fines totaling $1,135,980. 

The penalties are a result of CDPH investigations that found the facilities non-compliant with licensing requirements that caused, or were likely to cause, serious injury or death to patients.  

Memorial Hospital sent this statement:

"The care and safety of our patients and staff are the highest priority at Dignity Health Memorial Hospital and we take this matter very seriously.   After self-reporting this event to the California Department of Public Health, we fully cooperated during their investigation and immediately took steps to ensure the event never happens again, including developing new policy, revising processes and protocols, and providing extensive multidisciplinary staff and physician education.   Consistent with patient privacy laws and hospital policy, we respect our patients' privacy by not discussing the specifics of their care."

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