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Surgical Errors More Common in Office Procedures

Even Before Joan Rivers’ Death, In-Office Surgeries Known To Be Risky, Resulting in 257 Deaths Between 2010 and 2013

More than 250 people died as a result of risky surgeries performed outside of hospitals in New York over three years, according to a recent report by Crain’s New York.

And in the wake of comedian Joan Rivers’ death resulting from such an out-of-hospital procedure last month, there is a renewed effort to increase regulations on similar risky surgical procedures performed outside of hospitals. The risk, sadly, was already a concern to New York state health officials prior to her passing.

Months before Ms. Rivers’ death, health officials were tracking adverse medical incidents resulting from surgeries at doctor’s offices. The statistics revealed that 12% of such adverse events resulted in death. Between 2010 and 2013, 257 deaths resulted from surgeries performed at doctors’ offices. And there were an additional 1,945 “adverse events”, or complications, from the outpatient surgeries, the data show.

“[The data] points to very serious procedures being undertaken by patients who often are frail,” Dr. John Rugge, an upstate physician and policy adviser to the Department of Health, told Crain’s. “There is a need for better understanding and improvements.”

Had any of the 257 postsurgical deaths occurred at a hospital, there would have likely been a SWAT-team-like response from the facility, said a senior hospital executive briefed on the data.

But office-based surgical practices operate with limited state regulation. Proposed changes that would impose more reporting requirements for office-based surgeries failed to pass during the 2014 legislative session. The state Health Department’s advisory body, the Public Health and Health Planning Council, had issued the recommendations.

The proposed regulations would require office-based surgical practices to register with the Health Department and expand the data that the practices must report. The rules would also limit the duration of procedures that could take place in offices.

There is a renewed hope that the recently released statistics and report will push the passage of these stronger regulations for office surgical practices. Sadly, for victims who have been hurt or have died during in-office procedures, it is already too late.

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NY Daily News