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Vitale Bill To Expand Oversight, Regulation Of One-Room Surgical Practices Approved By Senate

Measure Would Ensure Greater Patient Safety, Licensing and Inspection on Par with Larger Ambulatory Care Facilities

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would require one-room surgical practices to conform to the same level of oversight and regulation reserved for larger facilities in order to protect patient safety was approved by the Senate Wednesday by a vote of 30-8.

“Whether you’re admitted in a hospital maintaining hundreds of beds per day, or going to a single-room surgical center, health care consumers in New Jersey should be able to access health care in a safe, sanitary environment,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Especially when you consider that many of the State’s medically-underserved communities and uninsured New Jerseyans depend on single-room facilities to meet their health care access needs, we have to make sure there isn’t a quality gap between the care people receive in different facilities. This bill would make sure that safe patient standards and health care best practices are followed throughout New Jersey’s health care system.”

The bill, S-2780, would make changes to the laws governing regulation and licensing of health care facilities in New Jersey. Under the bill, all health care facilities in New Jersey would be required to possess a valid license from the State Department of Health and Senior Services which specifies the kind of services the facility is authorized to provide. The bill would also require facilities to establish and maintain uniform cost accounting, reporting and auditing mechanisms, a long-range plan for the provision of health care at the facility, and patient discharge planning to make sure that patients have access to continuing care after being released from the facility.

By bringing all health care facilities under the umbrella of licensure, the bill would ensure that smaller health care facilities – such as one-room surgical practices which, under current law, are required to register with the State but are not required to submit for licensure – are held to the same patient safety standards as larger facilities. As a condition of licensure, facilities would have to submit to periodic inspections and audits to make sure they are fiscally sound and safe for patients.

“There’s an expectation that when you walk into a hospital or a single-room surgery center, that these facilities are operating at the highest standard of patient safety,” said Senator Vitale. “However, we’ve heard of incidents when best practices and simple common sense have been thrown out the window, and we have to crack down on unsafe health care. This bill is about creating a uniform, standardized and level playing field when it comes to keeping patients safe.”

Under the amended version of the bill, licensed surgical practices would be certified by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), to avoid imposing physical site requirements on smaller, one-room surgical centers, that simply do not make sense. At the same time, one-room facilities would still have to follow the same patient safety requirements and health care best practices that larger facilities follow.

According to Senator Vitale, the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute issued a report earlier this year on random inspections conducted by the Department of Health. Of the 40 one-room facilities which were inspected for the report, 17 were found to be in “immediate jeopardy” and seven were temporarily closed. Violations included: not having mandated emergency equipment and medications on site; no tracking of controlled and regulations medications such as narcotics; physicians and staff not having proper licenses or credentials; not cleaning or sanitizing surgical instruments correctly; and using single use items more than once, on more than one patient.

“The Health Care Quality Institute’s report should serve as a wake-up call that our current system of double standards in patient safety simply does not work,” said Senator Vitale. “When nearly half of the single-room surgical centers inspected for the purposes of the report are found to be deficient and unsafe, something needs to be done. This bill would raise everyone to an equally high standard of patient safety and ensure that, no matter where you access health care, that basic safety and sanitary precautions are being followed.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

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