Infection Control Still a Problem at Outpatient Surgical Centers

syringe.jpgThere has been much focus on infection control in hospitals, but little has been done to cement the cracks at outpatient surgical centers, where infection rates continue to remain unacceptably high.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows high infection control deficiencies at these centers. The CDC surveyed 68 ambulatory surgical centers in three different states. The agency was basically looking at how these centers complied with hand hygiene, environmental cleaning standards and injection safety.

The results were not encouraging. The inspectors found at least one lapse in 68% of the centers that they surveyed, and found lapses in three areas in at least 18% of the centers surveyed. In at least 20% of the centers that were surveyed, there were dangerous practices being followed, like using single dose vials on more than one patient. 39 of the 68 outpatient surgical centers were cited for infection control deficiencies, and 20 centers were cited for medication administration lapses.

So, why should Indiana medical malpractice lawyers be so concerned about high infection control deficiencies at these ambulatory surgical centers? The answer lies in the fact that an overwhelming majority of surgical procedures these days are conducted at these outpatient surgical centers. In fact, more than 75% of surgical procedures take place at these centers.

There are other reasons to worry too. The numbers of such outpatient surgical centers are increasing rapidly across the country. These rates increased by 8.3% every year from 1999 to 2005. Also, the actual rates of infection deficiencies at the centers could be higher because there are no federal standards for infection reporting. It’s highly possible that most infections that are contracted at the centers, are not reported.

This is a worrisome situation when you consider how many patients choose to have their procedures in these centers. The Las Vegas endoscopy center infection crisis of 2008 springs to mind – 40,000 people were exposed to the hepatitis and HIV viruses in that case. The facility had not been inspected for at least seven years. Syringes were re-used used blatantly, leading to at least half a dozen confirmed cases of Hepatitis C, originating from the center. In the context of the CDC study, it’s prudent to ask how many more centers are flouting safety rules nationwide.