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Vitale Bill To Expand Oversight, Regulation Of One-Room Surgical Practices Approved In Committee

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, the vice chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, 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 Committee today by a vote of 7-1.

“Whether it’s being provided at a hospital maintaining hundreds of beds per day, or at a single-room surgical center, New Jersey residents deserve safe, sanitary health care,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Particularly when you consider that many of these smaller facilities are located in medically-underserved communities, and provide health care to uninsured New Jerseyans, we simply need to do a much better job to make sure that there isn’t a quality gap between the care people receive in different facilities. This bill would ensure that uniform patient safety standards 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.

“This is about protecting patient safety in New Jersey and ensuring every facility operates on a level playing field,” said Senator Vitale. “When you go in for a surgical procedure, you have an expectation of basic safety and sanitary practices at the surgical facility. Through this legislation, we will be able to hold all facilities in New Jersey to the same level of oversight, regulation and inspection needed to protect health care consumers in the Garden State.”

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 be a wake up call that our current system of dual standards simply does not work,” said Senator Vitale. “When nearly half of the single-room surgical centers inspected in a report are found to pose a significant and immediate risk to patient safety, we have to take action. This bill represents an acknowledgement that everyone deserves access to quality health care, wherever you may go to access that care.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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