Rhode Island Hospital Fined for Fifth Surgery Error in Two Years

Rhode Island Hospital botched procedures on everything from fingers to brains.

ByABC News
November 3, 2009, 6:01 PM

Nov. 4, 2009— -- Few people could argue with the notion that hospital operations performed on the wrong body part are events that should never happen, but at one hospital, these so-called wrong-site operations have taken place five times since 2007.

Rhode Island Hospital, based in Providence, has been fined $150,000 by the Rhode Island Department of Health after a surgeon operated on the wrong finger of a patient last month. Among the ramifications, the hospital will have to install video cameras in all of its operating rooms and all surgeries will have to be watched by a clinical professional, not on the surgical team, trained in surgical safety measures.

Rhode Island Hospital previously drew scrutiny in 2007, after three separate brain surgeries were done in the wrong locations. While the hospital said it would make reforms at the time, some see the errors that have happened since then as a sign that the hospital has not followed through.

Earlier this year, a surgeon operated on the wrong side of the mouth of a patient with a cleft palate.

"We have been looking into this for quite a while," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. "This is now deemed inexcusable, it's a 'never to happen' occurrence in a hospital. When it repeatedly happens in a hospital, it means a system isn't in place in the hospital to keep it from happening."

Lifespan Corp., which owns Rhode Island Hospital, sent ABC News a statement, but declined to comment for the story.

"At Rhode Island Hospital, we remain more committed than ever to working on methods to reduce the incidence of all medical errors from reaching patients," said hospital president and chief executive officer Dr. Timothy Babineau in the statement. "Patient safety has always been, and remains, our number one priority."

An analysis of patient safety from HealthGrades, which ranks hospital quality, showed Rhode Island Hospital performed average in its overall patient safety.