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CDC Critiques Surgical Centers

A study performed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on infection reducing practices at three ambulatory surgical centers in three states shows that 68% of those centers had at least one procedural lapse.  Full details of the report are being published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Ambulatory surgical centers provide a convenient alternative to traditional hospitalization for certain procedures, such as plastic and orthopedic surgery.  Between 2001 and 2008, there was a 50% increase in the number of Medicare-certified surgery centers and more than 6 million surgeries were performed in such facilities in 2007.

An incident at a Las Vegas surgery center alerted the CDC to a potential problem that needed to be addressed.  Unsafe injection practices and an outbreak of Hepatitis C at the Las Vegas center was the impetus behind the study.

Seven states volunteered for the study; the three chosen were Maryland, North Carolina and Oklahoma.  Auditors from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were sent to the three states to perform the evaluation (BusinessWeek). 

Following are some of the findings:

*20% of the Centers evaluated had lapses in proper hand washing procedures

*Over 28% had lapses in medication handling

*46% had problems with inappropriately handling equipment for blood sugar monitoring

*28% failed to follow recommended infection control practices for reprocessing used surgical equipment

What troubles the CDC the most about the audits is that the Centers knew they were being observed, yet they still failed to follow best practices in critical areas.

Dr. Melissa Schaefer, medical officer for the CDC announced that in response to the study, the agency has developed a “self audit” tool for surgical centers to proactively audit themselves.  She urges those centers to not wait for a governmental audit before they determine how they’re doing.   

In order to educate the public about infection and disease prevention, the CDC has launched its “An Ounce of Prevention Campaign”.  The goal of this effort is to provide information on proper hand washing, cleaning, and infection prevention practices, according to the agency's website.