Eleven California hospitals, including Saint John’s Health Center, were fined $25,000 each in administrative penalties this week for violations that, in some cases, led to death or serious injury, according to Department of Public Health officials.

Most of the hospitals fined were in Southern California, and about half were cited because doctors or hospital staff had left foreign objects in patients after surgery.

Of 115 penalties issued to 80 hospitals since the penalties became law two years ago, 21 percent were related to foreign objects left behind during surgery, the second-leading violation, according to Ralph Montano, a health department spokesman. About 36 percent of fines are due to medication or pharmacy errors.

The 11 new fines bring the total of 115 monetary penalties against 80 hospitals to $2.87 million. The financial penalties will pay for efforts to determine root causes of such mistakes as well as help hospitals implement strategies for avoiding them.

Saint John’s Health Center was fined because staff failed to follow surgical procedures in December 2008 and a fire erupted during eyelid surgery. Someone reportedly used excessively high settings on a cauterization device, leaving a patient with second and third degree burns. The patient had to be transferred to another hospital’s burn unit.

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