After five patient deaths tied to medical errors, 457-bed Tucson (Ariz.) Medical Center has paid a fine of $10,750 and faces surprise inspections from state healthcare officials for the next two years. Hospital officials said payment of the fine is not an admission of guilt. The officials said they had put a plan of correction in place before the state acted, after a healthy 73-year-old man admitted for knee-replacement surgery died because a nurse mixed up oxygen and suction tubes. Investigators looking into the case discovered four other mistake-related deaths within the past two years. Internal hospital records and state investigators blamed the mistakes on overworked nurses. The hospital, Tucson's largest, was cited for failing to investigate each of the deaths and failing to take steps to prevent a recurrence of the mistakes. Other violations included failure to provide adequate nursing care. While the hospital has hired 100 nurses this year, it still has about 70 slots to fill. It must present a correction plan to the Arizona Department of Health Services, which imposed the highest fine possible for separate violations of medical-care rules by a state healthcare facility. -- by Michael Romano
Medical errors tied to 5 deaths at Ariz. hospital
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