New Jersey Surgical Centers Fall Short of Federal Safety Standards

On behalf of Albert Buzzetti & Associates, L.L.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Thursday, July 14, 2011.

A state inspection of New Jersey outpatient surgical centers has revealed troubling deficiencies. Over half of the facilities inspected in 2009 and 2010 did not meet federal safety standards, putting patients at risk of harm from infections and other illnesses acquired in the clinics.

According to NorthJersey.com, more than 25 percent of the inspected surgical centers were found to have safety violations that could cause serious injury to patients, including:

  • Failure to properly clean scopes between colonoscopies
  • Failure to fully sterilize eye surgery equipment
  • Failure to have a ventilator present in case of an emergency
  • Single-use tools being used for more than one patient

The inspection results have legislators and patient-safety advocates calling for greater regulation and more frequent inspections of New Jersey's outpatient surgical facilities. State Senator Bob Gordon said he is concerned that people will go to these places for fairly minor procedures and end up dying from infections they acquire from unclean facilities or equipment.

NorthJersey.com reports that more than 40 percent of all surgeries occur in outpatient surgical centers, but only 113 facilities are licensed by the state. Only clinics with more than one operating room are inspected every two or three years and are required to report medical errors that result in serious injuries to state officials.

Another 116 outpatient surgical centers in New Jersey are certified by Medicare but not licensed by the state because they only have one operating room. These facilities are inspected every four years.

But no one knows - not even the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners - how many other facilities with one surgical room and no Medicare patients exist unregulated and uninspected in New Jersey. Sharon Joyce, assistant attorney general with the Division of Consumer affairs said the office is unsure of the total number of these outpatient surgical centers in the state, and they typically are inspected only when a patient complains.

The lack of regular inspections combined with inspected facilities' failure to meet federal safety standards presents shocking dangers to patients undergoing surgeries at outpatient surgical centers in New Jersey. As David Knowlton, president of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute stated, these results are alarming.