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California health officials fine Orange County hospital after doctor fondled patient

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An Orange County hospital has been fined $50,000 for failing to report that an anesthesiologist had fondled a female patient, which may have resulted in a sexual assault of another patient, according to the California Department of Public Health. (Read the report below.)

A spokeswoman for Placentia-Linda Hospital said Wednesday it will appeal the fine.

It was one of 10 penalties issued Wednesday to seven California hospitals – with fines totaling $775,000 – after investigations found the facilities’ noncompliance with licensing requirements caused, or was likely to cause, serious injury or death to patients.

The incident occurred in 2011 at Placentia-Linda Hospital in Placentia when a "transporter" witnessed an anesthesiologist fondling a female patient's breast while she was under anesthesia. The employee reported the conduct to CDPH and eventually the police were called and the patient was notified. But when the hospital’s administration investigated this incident further, they found out it wasn’t the first time the anesthesiologist had allegedly sexually assaulted a female patient, according to the report.

A surgical technician assisting the anesthesiologist a year prior witnessed another incident during a femoral nerve block procedure. The technician told her supervisor she was unsure if what she saw was part of the procedure and wasn’t sure who the patient was or what day the incident happened.

The CDPH said Plancentia-Linda Hospital faces a penalty because no action was taken to report the first incident of alleged sexual harassment. The CDPH says this failure resulted in the subsequent sexual assault of another patient and exposed others to the ongoing threat and likelihood of being sexually assaulted.

Besides the penalty, California health officials declined to elaborate on the incident. 

Mary Ann Railey, spokeswoman for Placentia-Linda Hospital, issued this statement:

“We take seriously our responsibility to deliver quality, safe health care to our patients. We were notified of an administrative penalty related to a matter from March of 2011 involving a former member of our medical staff. When we became aware of this matter, we reported it to the State of California, and the medical staff member has not been on our staff since April 2011. The hospital implemented a corrective action plan at that time which was accepted by the state. We plan to appeal this fine.”

Below is the California Department of Public Health report on the incident:

Placentia Linda Hospital Report by