06 February 2012
You’ve seen the beautiful ambulatory centers, many in the wealthy suburbs. Some have lovely landscaping, envious marketing budgets and slick brochures with impressive before and after photos.
Who could blame you for thinking these surgery centers are clean and safe?
Some certainly are safe.
But not all.
Here’s just some of what surveys from the state department of health found at some New Jersey surgery centers:
- Staff members walking through sterile operating rooms in street clothes.
- Physicians and staff not having current licenses and credentials.
- Not cleaning or sanitizing surgical instruments correctly.
- Using single use items more than once, on more than one patient.
These surveys have always been public for those with time and initiative and understanding of the system. They could file Open Public Records Act, or “OPRA” requests. But that didn’t help the average consumer.
Now things have changed. For the first time sunshine is disinfecting the state’s surgery centers. This week the state Department of Health and Senior Services announced, effective immediately, that the department will be putting all inspection reports and plans of correction of licensed ambulatory centers on their website. Also on the site will be Medicare-qualified unlicensed surgery centers surveys and registration information of the unlicensed centers that haven’t been surveyed…yet.
The Quality Institute has long pushed to make these inspection reports easily accessible to consumers and we are thrilled that the state health department has scanned thousands of pages of inspections and placed them of the website. The inspections go as far back as 2008.
It’s hard to overestimate what an important step forward these postings are for patient safety.
The average consumer cannot walk into a center and tell anything is wrong. State inspectors know what to look for, and in 2009-2010 state surveys found something alarming: 49 of 91 facilities did not meet standards to participate in Medicare, and more than 25% of the facilities were cited for “Immediate Jeopardy,” which means the centers could potentially cause patients serious injury, harm or death.
I hope everyone checks out the state website before getting their tummy tucked or their knees improved or their colons scoped. The state has asked us to help them make the site more user-friendly and we are happy to do so. In the meantime, here’s the site with some navigation tips.
Select “Expanded and Improved Ambulatory Surgical Center Web Site”, in the “Hot Topics” box.
Next either put in the county you’d like to search or a specific facilities name
Once you’ve found the surgery center you want to review from the search query, click on the “Survey/Inspection Information” link and view the results.
A step into a surgery center will never be the same again when you become an educated health care consumer.