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Wrong-Leg Surgery Gets Hospital in Trouble

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration has reported to federal officials -- who control the purse strings for Medicare -- that Halifax Hospital poses an “immediate and serious threat to the health and safety of patients,” the Orlando Sentinel reports. The hospital has to demonstrate it has cleaned up its act in order to ward off financial penalties.

It all started when a patient went into the hospital for a vascular graft in her left leg but the operating-room team accidentally did the procedure on the right leg. A nurse anesthetist alerted the surgeon to the error, and he then did the left leg.  While wrong-site surgery is not uncommon, judging from Board of Medicine cases, the surgeon in the Halifax case goofed by not confessing his mistake to the patient, instead telling her the right leg surgery was necessary.

The hospital filed a report to the state within 15 days, as required, which triggered the AHCA inspection. Once the agency got into the hospital, it found other troublesome issues and filed the report to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Normally in such cases, hospitals are given a set of required steps they must complete in order to get out from under the cloud, and they almost always do.

But a couple of members of the operating team, including the surgeon, are no longer working at Halifax, hospital officials said.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.