You may have seen a new surgical center opening in your city or town. These surgery centers offer same day, outpatient surgical services that are typically more cost effective and more convenient than getting the procedure done at a regular hospital. There are more than 5,616 Medicare-certified ambulatory surgical centers throughout the country, and many of them are owned by the doctors who work there. A joint investigation by USA Today and Kaiser Health News, however, uncovered dangerous conditions in these surgical centers that seem to have led to the deaths of at least 260 patients since 2013.
What are the problems with ambulatory surgical centers?
Because they are large institutions, hospitals have systems and processes in place to manage risk and deal with emergencies proactively. A small, freestanding surgical suite may not have the resources to handle life-threatening emergencies that can occur when a routine surgical procedure goes awry. Some of the inherent risks of surgical centers include:
- Lack of oversight and patient monitoring
- Discharging surgical patients too soon
- Failure to properly sterilize equipment
- Lack of intensive care equipment/facilities
- Performing procedures inappropriate for a surgical center
- Equipment failure/ lack of backup equipment
- Failure to obtain informed consent from the patient
- Lack of accreditation. If the surgical center is not going to accept Medicare or private insurance, they have fewer safety requirements putting patients at higher risk of injury.
The USA Today story highlights what happened to Paulina Tam, a 58-year-old mother who went into a surgical center for surgery and died from complications because the surgical center had to call 911 when she went into distress following the procedure.
At least 14 patients have died after complex spinal surgeries in surgical centers
Many patients have not survived the trip from the surgical center to the emergency room to address complications that occurred following surgery. USA Today and the Kaiser Health News network contacted 24 doctors that own surgical centers about patient deaths and none of them was willing to answer questions. The executive director of the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association declined a request for comment for the report saying only that there is no data that proves surgery centers are less safe than hospitals.
Ambulatory surgical centers in Ohio and Kentucky
The following is a list of a few of the outpatient day surgery centers in our area:
- Laser Spine Institute
- Big Creek Surgery Center
- Wright Surgery Center
- North Shore Gastroenterology
- Cleveland Surgical Suites
Lexington, KY outpatient surgical centers:
- Lexington Clinic Outpatient Surgery and Endoscopy Centers
- Cosmetic Surgery Center
- Stone Road Surgery Center
- Baptist-Physicians’ Surgery Center
- Surgery on Sunday
Ambulatory surgical centers generate profits for doctors
Doctors are permitted by law to steer patients to a surgical center that they own rather than to a full-service hospital, which increases the doctor’s profits. When surgical centers take on complex cases they are not equipped to handle if the procedure goes wrong, those centers are thoughtless and careless. They take these complex cases because it is where the big profits can be found.
The challenge with all these cases is that most reach confidential settlements. As a result, no one hears about the stories of these needless deaths, and the public remains unaware of the potential danger of surgical centers. While these centers offer convenience and lower costs, they also carry different risks if things go wrong.
You are welcome to schedule a free consultation with a medical malpractice attorney from Crandall & Pera if you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury after a procedure at an ambulatory surgical center. Crandall & Pera Law is a premier medical malpractice law firm serving clients throughout Ohio and Kentucky. If a preventable medical error was the cause of your injury, you are encouraged to call our medical malpractice attorneys at 877-686-8879. You may also schedule a free consultation through our contact form. We take cases on a contingency fee basis.