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Senator Vitale

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Health Chairman Joseph F. Vitale that would amend current law to require all surgical practices to be licensed by the Department of Health as ambulatory care facilities within one year cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today.

Legislation enacted in 2009 required all surgical practices to register with the Department of Health and Senior Services by March 21, 2010, and be subject to some oversight by the Department. These one-operating-room, physician-owned practices, however, provide the same type of surgical services as the larger, licensed ambulatory surgery facilities but are not subject to the same regulations, requirements, and oversight by the Department of Health.

“In order to ensure safety standards and high quality of care for patients who use their services, outpatient surgical centers that are offering the same types of services as larger, licensed ambulatory surgery facilities should be subject to the same regulations and requirements,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This bill levels the playing field with patient safety at its core.”

The bill, S-278, repeals the requirement that surgical practices be registered by DOH, and provides, instead, that surgical practices must be licensed by DOH within one year of its effective date as ambulatory care facilities licensed to provide surgical and related services and be subject to the same regulatory requirements as the larger ambulatory surgical facilities.

This legislation stems from a 2012 report issued by the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute on random inspections made by the DOH. The inspection team visited 40 one-operating-room facilities and 51 multi-room ambulatory care facilities. Of the 40 one-room facilities inspected, 17 were found to be in “immediate jeopardy,” which resulted in seven closing temporarily. Immediate jeopardy means that the facility has caused, or is likely to cause, serious injury, harm, impairment or death to a patient.

Under the bill, a surgical practice is defined as a structure or suite of rooms that: (1) has no more than one room dedicated for use as an operating room which is specifically equipped to perform surgery, and is designed and constructed to accommodate invasive diagnostic and surgical procedures; (2) has one or more post-anesthesia care units or a dedicated recovery area where the patient may be closely monitored and observed until discharged; and (3) is established by a physician, physician professional association surgical practice, or other professional practice form specified by the State Board of Medical Examiners and the New Jersey Board of Dentistry pursuant to regulation solely for private medical practice.

The bill also removes these physical plant requirements if the center is certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The bill was approved by the Senate Health Committee with a vote of 9-0, and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.