Home E-Weekly March 6, 2018

"As Surgery Centers Boom, Patients Are Paying With Their Lives"

Published: March 6, 2018

Risky Business RISKY BUSINESS Some surgical centers may be skimping on training and equipment, according to an investigation.

An ambulatory surgery center is the place to go for simple procedures — and tragic results — according to an investigative report in USA Today and Kaiser Health News (KHN) that claims more than 260 ASC patients have died as a result of surgical complications in the last 5 years.

ASCs call 911 thousands of times each year due to a range of patient complications, according to the investigation in which reporters combed through autopsy records, legal fillings, and state and Medicare inspection records to determine how many patients died after complications from outpatient procedures.

The report, which calls into question the safety of the estimated 5,600 U.S. surgery centers, uncovered some risky practices like performing more complicated surgeries to increase profits, being located too far from the local hospital when emergencies arise, taking in patients with high-risk health problems that experts say should only be handled in hospitals, and skimping on training or equipment needed in an emergency.

The Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA) was quick to dismiss the article for its "sensationalism and misrepresentation" of safety and quality in ASCs.

"By focusing their story on a relatively small number of tragic errors, while ignoring the overwhelming beneficial outcomes found in ASCs, they have created a false and misleading narrative about the safety and efficacy of outpatient surgery," says William Prentice, chief executive officer of ASCA in an emailed press release.

More than 200 million outpatient procedures have been safely completed during the time span mentioned in the report, says ASCA. However, "it's important to realize that surgery centers are not hospitals," says anesthesiologist and safe surgery expert Kenneth Rothfield, MD, board member of the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health and Safety in the article. "They have different resources, different equipment."

JoEllen McBride

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