Extensive Investigation Reveals Startling Discoveries About Surgery Centers
An extensive investigation by Kaiser Health News and the USA TODAY Network has made startling discoveries about surgery centers. They found that throughout the U.S. more than 260 patients have died since 2013, after procedures performed at surgery centers. Furthermore, dozens have perished after standard out-patient operations, such as colonoscopies and tonsillectomies. What’s more upsetting is some of these victims were two years old and younger. Consequently, 17 states do not have to report these deaths! In the wake of surging popularity of surgery centers, the findings are astonishing. Reporters combed over legal filings and over 12,000 state and Medicare inspection records, as well as interviewed dozens of doctors, policy experts, and patients. To date, it is the most comprehensive surgery center review in the industry.
A Recap of the Findings
Some states do impose strict reporting requirements. For example in Colorado surgery centers must report patient deaths and any severe injuries to the state health department. Conversely, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey must file incident reports, but don’t have to publicize them. And as stated earlier 17 states do not require any reporting whatsoever, even if the incident is subject of a lawsuit. Additionally, the investigation revealed that while the Joint Commission, the leading accreditation body for U.S. hospitals, recommends reporting of deaths and severe injury, the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA) the lead agency regulating surgery centers, makes no such recommendation.
List of the Facts Revealed
- Business is booming for surgery centers, as they take on more and riskier patients and procedures. According to data collected at least 14 patients have died after complex spinal surgeries.
- Did you know that doctors may own a share or a whole center? They earn their fees and even a cut of the facilities expenses. This could equate to a meaningful sum, especially because many operations can cost $100,000 or more.
- It is a Medicare requirement that surgery centers affiliated with a local hospital to which to take their patients should emergencies arise. But, in rural areas, centers can be 15 or more miles away. Also, even when hospitals are close, it may take up to 20-30 minutes from 911 call to ER arrival.
- Some surgery centers overlooked and accepted high-risk patients that should only be treated in hospitals. Around 25 people with underlying medical conditions left surgery centers and died within minutes or days.
- Another startling discovery about surgery centers is that some centers were caught risking patient lives by skimping on life-saving equipment and proper staff training.
- Surgery centers that released patients without adequate recovery time. Family members reported that while they thought their loved ones were sleeping in the car, they were, in fact, close to death.
The History of Surgery Centers
It seems like surgery centers have always existed, right? However, it was not until 1970, though, that the first surgery center opened in Phoenix, AZ. The pioneer doctors felt it was unnecessary for patients to be fully admitted to the hospital for minor procedures. It seemed like a genius idea in that it also reduced the cost for patients and insurers. Surgery centers do not require the staff or extensive equipment as a hospital. And, this is where the main problem exists. Because of less stringent regulations and requirements many times there is a complete absence of staff with medical emergency training.
What’s more, many centers do not even stock many life-saving devices on the premises. Unfortunately, there are some in the healthcare field that has dismissed the mounting deaths as medical anomalies beyond the control of physicians. Surprisingly, this opinion ranges from doctors to private insurance companies to Medicare.
Reasons Behind the Rise
As it now stands Federal law allows surgery center doctors to steer patients to facilities they own, rather than the full-service hospitals. However, in some cases, it puts undue risk to a patient but doubles a physician’s profits. Medicare also helped drive the expansion of surgery centers when it began paying for procedures in 1982. Lastly, the centers have become increasingly popular with patients, due to the convenience and personalized care. Additionally, surgery centers have thrived as hospitals have battled to contain the spread of infections.
The Final Takeaway
This investigation has revealed startling discoveries about surgery centers. Doctors in surgery centers may excel at the procedures they perform most often. But the centers aren’t always prepared and sometimes struggle in a crisis. The mission of IFord Insititute is establishing the principle of improving Healthcare Operations by bringing them in line with standard industry practices. Our goal is ensuring patients’ safety in any healthcare setting. Further, our mission is disease prevention engineering. To learn more, download IFord’s “Creating Healthy Hospitals.” IFord is the only organization dedicated to disease prevention engineering and healthy hospital design.