After a routine survey of Asheville abortion clinic FemCare revealed multiple violations, the state Department of Health and Human Services suspended the medical license of the only clinic in the state that would currently meet the new requirements of an abortion bill signed into law earlier this week.
“Inspectors from Division of Health Service Regulation (DHSR) found the facility failed to comply with 23 separate rules,” said Drexdal Patt, who serves as director of DHHS’ Division of Health Service Regulation. “We take rule violations very seriously and, when necessary, take firm action to prevent harm to patients and clients in the facilities that we license regulate and inspect.”
The statement sent from DHHS on Wednesday evening called the violations “egregious” and said they “revealed an imminent threat to the health and safety of patients.”
The survey conducted on July 18 and 19 found that the facility failed to keep anesthesia delivery systems in good working conditions, specifically citing torn masks and tubing that were found “held together with tape” — putting patients at risk for pain and physical harm due to inadequate sedation dosages during surgical procedures.
The 49-page report found other violations, which included:
• Failed to ensure emergency equipment had weekly checks to ensure the equipment was suitable for use in patient care.
• Failed to ensure that emergency medicine wasn’t expired.
• Failed to have a resuscitator available.
• Failed to sweep and mop the operating room floor and failed to properly clean operating room beds.
• Failed to have a director of nursing responsible and accountable for all nursing services.
• Failed to have an agreement/contract with an anesthetist or anesthesiologist.
• Failed to have an agreement/contract with a registered pharmacist to assure appropriate methods, procedures and controls for obtaining, dispensing and administering drugs.
Dr. Lorraine Cummings issued a statement on behalf of FemCare. It reads, “Since the State’s last visit in August 2006 there have been no changes in our operating protocols, but increasing regulations require us to make changes. Standards that were accepptable when we were last inspected have changed and, as soon as we were notified of them two weeks ago, we began the process of meeting each one of them. We have had no patient infections using our former protocols. We expect to be in compliance soon with the required standards and will return to serving our patients as soon as possible.”
The medical center will now have 10 days to prove that it complies with the relevant rules and 60 days to file an appeal, according to language in the report.
The last time the medical facility was inspected, the clinic was found in violation of personnel and quality assurance rules.
Despite campaign promises that he would not sign any bills into law that would further restrict access to abortion, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill into law on Monday that will require abortion clinics to meet the same standards of outpatient surgical centers. In a July 3 article, investigations by Xpress found that the only abortion clinic in the state that would meet those new requirements was Asheville’s FemCare. It also requires that a physician to be physically present in the room with a woman upon taking the first dose of an abortion-inducing drug. However, it does not require that a physician be present beyond the initial dose. Critics say the legislation, entitled “Health and Safety Law Changes,” will effectively shut down abortion clinics across the state.
However, McCrory says the intention of the law is safety not clinic closures.
“This law does not further limit access and those who contend it does are more interested in politics than the health and safety of our citizens,” McCrory said of the newly adopted law. “This new legislation is focused on the health and safety of women in North Carolina. These higher standards will result in safer conditions for North Carolina women.”
— Caitlin Byrd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 251-1333, ext. 140.