Study: Major Infection Control Problem At Outpatient Surgical Centers

A new federal study released earlier this month and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that same-day surgery centers, also known as outpatient surgical centers or ambulatory surgical centers, have serious problems with infection control.

Inspectors visited sixty-eight centers and told staff who they were and what they were doing. Yet, 67 percent of the centers had at least one mistake in infection control and 57 percent were cited for deficiencies during these visits. Some of the problems that researchers found were failure to wash hands before touching a patient, failure to wear gloves when working with a patient, failure to properly clean blood-glucose meters, and reusing single-use devices for multiple patients.

Any of these breaches could have led to serious infections that would have endangered the lives of patients. It is estimated that approximately 6 million procedures are conducted annually in the United States at outpatient surgical centers.

This study was conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services because little was known about how the more than 5,000 ambulatory surgical centers participating in the Medicare program adhered to important infection-control procedures. The study results appeared in the June 9, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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