Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, California, has been fined $86,000 for leaving a towel in a patient’s stomach during an April 2014 surgery.
The patient, who has not been identified, said the error nearly cost him his life, KFSN-TV reported.
“l had lost 43 pounds, my bowels were not working right, I had no energy, no stamina, and I felt like I might not live,” the patient said in a report released by the Department of Public Health, according to KFSN-TV.
Though the hospital has since changed its protocol and started counting blue surgical towels, it may end up paying even more if the patient files a lawsuit.
"I think the hospital is on the line,” legal analyst Tony Capozzi told the news station. "Not only for penalties from the state, but a lawsuit that is going to show, I believe very gross, gross negligence in this case. Which may open them up to punitive damages to punish them for what happened.”
A study published by The Joint Commission in 2013 found that there were 772 incidents of foreign objects left in surgical patients in the U.S. between 2005 and 2012, and 16 people died as a result, CBS News reported.
"Leaving a foreign object behind after surgery is a well-known problem, but one that can be prevented," Dr. Ana Pujols McKee, chief medical officer of The Joint Commission, said in a statement, according to CBS News.
"It's critical to establish and comply with policies and procedures to make sure all surgical items are identified and accounted for, as well to ensure that there is open communication by all members of the surgical team about any concerns," she added.