According to a recent story published in the Pennsylvania Business Journal, Pennsylvania ambulatory surgery facilities submitted 502 medication error reports to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority over a five and a half year period through the end of last year. Unfortunately, there is a lack of medical literature accurately quantifying or addressing medical errors that occur in ambulatory surgical facilities and according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Health Statistics and Research, Pennsylvania had 265 ambulatory surgery facilities which performed more than 960 procedures between July 1, 2000 and June 30, 2009.
Ambulatory surgery facilities are often utilized for general surgical procedures including but not limited to ophthalmologic endoscopies, colonoscopies, orthopedic, gynecological, urologic, and cosmetic procedures.
Recently a national quality forum approved for endorsement a list of 29 serious reportable events in health care. All Pennsylvania hospitals, ambulatory surgical facilities, and birthing centers are subject to reporting requirements under Act 13 and must submit with the authorities any “serious event incidents".
Unfortunately, as an experienced Pennsylvania surgical and medical malpractice attorney for over three decades I all too often investigate and prosecute claims of negligence and malpractice involving outpatient or ambulatory surgical centers. I am concerned that many times Philadelphia and Pennsylvania regulatory establishments fail patients who suffer harm or unfortunately wrongful death in an ambulatory surgery center. There appears to be a systematic weakness in Pennsylvania’s enforcement of healthcare facility laws with regard to application or enforcement against many ambulatory surgery facilities. In the pure world, ambulatory surgical facility should offer high quality cost effective alternatives to in-patient hospital surgical services. Almost 90% of ASC’s are privately owned by physicians and are increasingly jointly partnering with hospitals.
Unfortunately many ambulatory surgery centers do not meet federal safety standards which could lead to serious and catastrophic consequences for patients. Many times we have seen single use items reused and medical supplies with expired expiration dates used. Common types of errors cited in Pennsylvania ambulatory surgical facilities include drug omissions, administration of the wrong drug, failing to monitor errors, documenting allergies, confusion or mixup involving ophthalmology products of different pharmacological categories, differentiating lookalike products, operation on the wrong body part or wrong patient, surgical site infections, wrong drug errors, and failure to prophylactically deliver antibiotics.
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