Lax oversight leaves surgery center regulators and patients in the dark: Kaiser Health News

“The first man died in April 2014. Another died later that month. Then on July 18 of that year, a woman was rushed to a hospital where she was told she was lucky to be alive,” Christina Jewett, Kaiser Health News and Mark Alesia, USA Today Network, write in an investigative piece on regulation at ambulatory surgery centers, where surgery is done outside of a hospital setting. The investigation found ” that a hodgepodge of state rules governing outpatient centers allow some deaths and serious injuries to go unexamined. And no rule stops a doctor exiled by a hospital for misconduct from opening a surgery center down the street.” “They all went to the same Little Rock, Ark., surgery center for a colonoscopy, among the safest procedures a patient can have. And each stopped breathing soon afterward, court records say, sustaining the same type of brain damage seen in a drowning victim.  What happened at Kanis Endoscopy Center prompted no review by officials in Arkansas, which, like 16 other states, has no mandate to report patient deaths after surgery center care. So no facility oversight authority has examined whether the deaths were a statistical anomaly or cause for alarm. A Kaiser Health News and USA Today Network investigation found that surgery centers operate under such an uneven mix of rules across U.S. states that fatalities or serious injuries can result in no warning to government officials, much less to potential patients. The gaps in oversight enable centers hit with federal regulators’ toughest sanctions to keep operating, according to interviews, a review of hundreds of pages of court filings and government records obtained under open records laws. No rule stops a doctor exiled by a hospital for misconduct from opening a surgery center down the street. Even the high-profile death of comedian Joan Rivers — who passed away in 2014 following a routine procedure at a Manhattan surgery center — failed to appear in Medicare’s public tally of patients rushed to a hospital.” Christina Jewett, Kaiser Health News and Mark Alesia, USA Today Network, “Lax oversight leaves surgery center regulators and patients in the dark,” Kaiser Health News.

The first part of the series found “that more than 260 patients have died since 2013 after in-and-out procedures at surgery centers across the country. More than a dozen — some as young as 2 — have perished after routine operations, such as colonoscopies and tonsillectomies.” “As surgery centers boom, patients are paying with their lives.”