Surgical Centers Lack Proper Oversight

State laws are hit-or-miss and centers in which deaths have occurred still operate despite federal sanctions, an investigation reveals.

People too often go to surgical centers for routine procedures and wind up dead, according to an investigation by Kaiser Health News (KHN) and the USA Today Network. This is quite unlike the oversight for hospitals, where unexpected deaths are almost always scrutinized. 

Leah Binder, chief executive of the Leapfrog Group, an employer consortium that surveys more than 2,000 hospitals a year, calls the lack of oversight at surgical centers disgraceful. For instance, as KHN points out, “no rule stops a doctor exiled by a hospital for misconduct from opening a surgical center down the street.”

And because government officials are not warned about unexpected deaths at surgical centers, there’s no way that patients can be warned. The leading accreditation organization for hospitals, the Joint Commission, wants members to send reports of unexpected deaths so that lessons can be learned and further tragedies averted.

Even the head of an association representing surgical centers says that something needs to be done. Bill Prentice, executive director of the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, tells KHN that “we shouldn’t have a patchwork system where one state asks for one thing and others ask for others.”