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Illinois surgery centers and infection risk

One of the primary risks of surgery is the possibility of a post-operative infection. Medical malpractice occurs when health care facilities fail to maintain proper standards of care. In the case of infection-control problems, the situation is severe in at least one type of Illinois facility.

Same-day surgery centers are growing in popularity in the health care field. By focusing on specific procedures, including cataract operations, foot surgeries and colonoscopies, these facilities are often able to perform operations more quickly and efficiently than traditional hospitals. Some of that efficiency may be coming at the expense of patient safety.

When Illinois health officials reviewed 21 Illinois surgery centers, 14 were found to violate proper infection control standards. The new standards, designed after an outbreak of hepatitis C in Nevada, include a wide variety of medical practices, including the use of surgical masks, sterilization of equipment, and investigation of post-operative infections. Surgical centers are expected to conform to the same standards of care as hospitals. Inspectors still have 36 Illinois surgery centers left to review.

The differences between a surgery center and a hospital may contribute to the problem. Surgery centers often have far less time between operations than hospitals. While hospitals may employ a professional whose only job is to oversee infection control issues, surgery centers often use a nurse who also has other duties to perform. Despite the differences, regulators agree that patients should not be exposed to greater risk simply for choosing a surgery center to handle their procedure.

All 14 surgery centers that were cited for violations have since corrected the problems.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times, "Illinois surgery centers slip on infection control," Carla K. Johnson, 8 August 2011

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