More than 3,000 patients of an ambulatory surgical center in New Jersey received letters, warning that they may have been exposed to bloodborne pathogens if they had a procedure at the HealthPlus Surgery Center between January and September of 2018. Upon investigation, the NJ Department of Health found that staff at the facility were not properly sterilizing medical instruments, which could expose patients to bloodborne diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. So far, there have not been any reports of infection which could be traced to the lapse in sterilization protocols, but the state health department reports that every patient affected by the lapse has been notified. CNN reports that a letter from the HealthPlus Surgery Center advises patients to get tested for blood infections, and that the center will pay for the test if it is administered by a recommended provider.
Janelle Fleming, spokesperson for the health department, was unable to share what triggered the investigation which uncovered the “lapses in infection control” at the ambulatory care facility. The center was closed between September 7 and 28 last year to undergo a thorough cleaning by a third-party service. During that time, the administrators also undertook repairing medical instruments, hiring new staff, and changing infection control and medication dispensing procedures, per the CNN story.
Ambulatory surgery centers, by the numbers
Ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) provide outpatient procedures to patients who are not required to stay in the hospital overnight after a procedure, according to MedPAC, an independent congressional agency which advises the U.S. Congress on issues that affect the Medicare program. There are approximately 6,100 ambulatory surgery centers in the United States, per a report in Business Wire, with 5,519 of them being Medicare-certified. In 2017, more than half of outpatient surgeries were performed in an ASC setting, as ambulatory surgery centers now outnumber hospitals in this country.
ASCs are almost always owned by the physicians who serve the patients there. When deciding whether a patient should have surgery at an ASC or in a hospital, there are several factors which must be considered. The patient’s underlying health, the complexity of the procedure, the odds of complications and other important factors must be weighed. Also, the distance between the ASC and the nearest hospital is a critical consideration because if a life-threatening complication should occur, more than a few miles could have dire consequences. Nurses must dial 911 and request an ambulance if a complication occurs that the ACS staff is not equipped to handle.
One of the major factors in choosing an ambulatory center over a hospital for surgery is the cost. At ASCs – because of their smaller, focused operation – procedures can be half the cost of those performed in hospitals. For this reason alone, many patients choose to be treated at these facilities.
Are ambulatory surgical centers safe?
An investigation by Kaiser Health News and the USA Today network asked about the safety of the thousands of ambulatory care centers that are cropping up all over the country. The investigation found more than 260 patients have died after a procedure at an ACS, some as routine as a colonoscopy or a tonsillectomy.
Betty McCabe, administrator of the HealthPlus Surgery Center, said “We recognize that this may be upsetting to our patients, and we are taking this matter very seriously and taking steps to assist them during this process.” in a statement published on CBSNews.com.
Patients who have sustained an injury at a South Carolina ambulatory care center should contact a medical malpractice attorney from McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC.
The medical malpractice attorneys at McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC, have spent many years fighting on behalf of clients injured because of medical negligence. Serious injuries require aggressive representation. You can learn more about our services, or schedule a free consultation, please call 888.302.7546 or fill out our contact form.