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When in Rhode Island, Don't Visit This Hospital

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State health officials have levied a $300,000 fine against Rhode Island Hospital following an operation gaffe which left a broken drill bit inside a woman's skull. Mind you, this comes roughly one week after a pair of forceps were discovered in the abdomen of a patient who underwent surgery at the hospital three months earlier.

According to the Providence Journal, the fine represents the third and largest amount imposed against this hospital for surgical errors.

The drill bit incident occurred in August when a woman in her sixties was admitted for a brain tumor. During the procedure, a quarter-inch-long fragment from the drill bit broke off. Believing the piece was embedded within the bone flap that was removed, no followup search was conducted. The woman was sewn up and sent on her merry way.

The hospital failed to adhere to its own policy to administer an x-ray to check if the piece was still inside the patient. And considering the particular area was the skull, it should've been a bit of a priority.

Instead, the following day, the hospital had the patient undergo an MRI which -- for anyone with a cursory knowledge of hospital equipment knows -- plays absolute havoc on metal materials. Sure enough, the metal piece was detected, a follow-up x-ray confirmed it, and the piece was safely removed.

Health Director David R. Gifford, who imposed the fine, noted in a letter to Rhode Island Hospital president and CEO Dr. Timothy J. Babineau that the MRI put the patient "at significant risk of harm" given the magnetic forces of the equipment.

But ol' Screw Head and Tummy Tongs weren't the only ones at significant risk of harm at Rhode Island Hospital.

Last October, a Rhode Island Hospital surgeon operated on a patient's wrong finger joint -- marking the fifth wrong-site surgery at the hospital in roughly three years -- which led to a $150,000 fine. Additionally, the Journal's Felice J. Freyer writes, the hospital was ordered to "hire a consultant to observe surgery for three years, shut down surgery for one day and conduct mandatory training on surgical procedures, and install audio- and video-monitoring equipment in the operating rooms for periodic observation."

Well, that did a lotta good.

"Medical errors occur at all hospitals throughout the country," Babineau told the Journal. "We are committed to open communication and transparency as a way of learning from those mistakes."

Presumably, that's a promise to only leave tiny, very insignificant tools inside patients' bodies.
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