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Botched Surgeries at Rhode Island Hospital

Oct 26, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP In the fifth such case since 2007, Rhode Island Hospital has confirmed staff there operated on the wrong body part, described as a wrong-site surgery. The hospital is located in Providence, Long Island.

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that health officials and the State Department of Health are looking into how a Rhode Island Hospital surgeon mistakenly operated on the wrong area of a patient’s hand. This alleged mistake represents the fifth such wrong-site surgery in two years.

In a letter cited by the AP, Rhode Island Hospital President Timothy Babineau said the surgical error occurred late last week on a patient scheduled to undergo surgery on two fingers in which the surgery meant for a joint on one of the fingers was operated on another finger. Babineau said, reported the AP, that the surgery was then performed on the correct finger. No names have yet been released and the patient has since been released.

The AP noted that Rhode Island Hospital was fined $50,000 in 2007 after brain surgeons—in three separate cases—operated on the wrong side of patients' heads.

In 2007, Rhode Island News reported on one of the three wrong side surgeries having taken place just four months following a prior similar circumstance. While this was the third wrong-site surgery in one year, Rhode Island News reported that that surgery was the fourth wrong-site surgery in just six years, all taken place in the neurosurgery area.

It seems that the last neurosurgical error involved an 82-year-old patient who was in neurosurgical intensive care and was experience bleeding between the brain and skull, said Rhode Island News. The chief resident of neurosurgery began to make an incision into the patient’s head to remove the blood, but began making the incision on the wrong side of the patient’s head; the incision broke the skin, but not the patient’s skull, said Rhode Island News. The surgeon was in the seventh year of specialty training.

“The patient received one stitch to close the wound, and the procedure was then performed on the correct side, with good results,” the hospital indicated in a statement, quoted Rhode Island News, previously. There was no staff member present during the botched procedure to verify the surgical site, a hospital requirement, explained Rhode Island Times. At the time, the hospital was found to not be meeting its license requirements due to “continued failure to provide adequate care to patients having neurosurgery,” quoted Rhode Island News.

In another incident at Rhode Island Hospital involving an operating room emergency procedure, an 86-year-old was brought to the emergency room three days after he fell; the man was diagnosed with blood between his brain and skull. The neurosurgeon involved, J. Frederick Harrington, never checked CT scans to determine which side of the patient’s head on which to work and began drilling into the patient’s head based on his recollection of the case, said Rhode Island News. Once Harrington realized the mistake, he switched sides. The patient later died, but at the time of the report, a cause of death had not been determined, Harrington’s license was suspended, and his hospital privileges were not reinstated.

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