Surgical Centers Safe?


The rising cost of health care has everyone on edge. One effect is that routine, small surgeries, that used to be done in a full service hospital are being done in ambulatory or same-day surgery centers. The number of ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) in America has exploded, surpassing 5,600 today.

As surgeries in these centers has exploded, so has the risks of medical complications and malpractice. A new joint investigation by USA TODAY and Kaiser Health News sheds light on centers plagued by poor oversight, unqualified or ill-equipped staff, and a lack of accountability.
More than 260 patients have died since 2013 at surgery centers across America. At Kandis Endoscopy Center in Arkansas, two people died and one suffered brain damage after anesthesia complications. Medicare reporting qualifications aren’t strong either for these centers. Surgery centers are allowed great latitude regarding reporting what number of patients end up being transferred to a hospital. A hospital transfer indicates that a surgery center could not handle an issue that came up during a procedure. Even “ASC Quality Collaboration”, an organization run by the surgery center industry, asked Medicare to do better reporting, quarterly quality report.

And, many surgery centers are partially or fully owned by the doctors who work there. Therein lies a conflict of interest between a doctor-owner’s financial interests and a willingness to report mistakes.

You or a loved one may be referred to a surgery center. To reduce the chance of complications do the following:

  • Only go to accredited surgery centers. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid provide a list of approved accrediting organizations. 
  • Talk to friends and family about their experiences they had at the surgery center.
  • Check to see if the facility and its surgeons regularly perform the procedure you need.
  • Due diligence means to look for online patient reviews beforehand.
  • Check and insure your surgery center is close to a hospital in case of emergency.