Just six weeks after Governor Markell signed into law HB 47 authorizing the Division of Public Health to investigate and inspect unsanitary or unsafe conditions in certain facilities where invasive medical procedures are performed, the Division shut down a Dover dermatology practice after receiving 10 complaints from patients and former employees of the Center for Dermatology. On Monday, June 15th, six investigators—three each from the Division of Public Health and the Division of Professional Regulation—arrived unannounced at the Center and, after spending most of the day there, ordered the practice to close. The unsafe conditions observed by the investigators included the use of unsterilized equipment such as scalpels, forceps and tweezers, health care staff failing to wash their hands before treating patients, and improper storage of controlled substances. The Division of Public Health was also concerned that the Center could not produce a written list of its safety policies and procedures.
HB 47 was introduced in the General Assembly in the wake of the publicity surrounding the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a West Philadelphia abortion provider who is accused of murder in connection with the deaths of seven infants and was associated with clinics in Wilmington and Dover run by Atlantic Women’s Medical Services. The bill gives the Division of Public Health authority to inspect and investigate facilities or health care practices (physicians, dentists, podiatrists, chiropractors) performing procedures in which anesthesia or sedation is or should be used upon receiving a complaint from a patient or the occurrence of an “adverse event,” e.g., death, serious injury, or the initiation of a criminal investigation. Facilities excluded from the bill are hospitals, freestanding birthing centers, freestanding surgery centers, and freestanding emergency centers.
HB 47 also authorizes the Division of Professional Regulation to investigate and inspect unsanitary and unsafe conditions maintained by individuals licensed by the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline, and provides that maintenance of an unsanitary or unsafe condition is “unprofessional conduct” under the Medical Practice Act.
In light of these developments health care practices are well-advised to review their written safety policies and procedures and take measures to ensure that the procedures are followed.