New NY Public Health Law Tightens Oversight Over Office-Based Surgeries

A new public health law that took effect on January 14, 2008, is tightening oversight over outpatient medical facilities that provide office-based surgeries. Office-based surgery refers to any invasive process outside of a hospital where moderate or severe sedation or general anesthesia is used.

Experts have found that more than half of medical procedures, including surgeries, endoscopies, colonoscopies, rhinoplasty, and breast augmentation/reduction occur in offices and clinics, many of which are not accredited. This has resulted in many improper surgeries and negligent medical care. Many patients have suffered accordingly from this mistreatment.

The new law requires all ambulatory surgery centers that use moderate or heavy sedation to be accredited by one of three national groups or the doctor will lose his license. Facilities have until July 14, 2009 to become accredited.

All centers must also report “adverse events, ” including death and unplanned transfers to a hospital, within 30 days. Notably, dental and medical offices that only use light sedation are not covered by the new law.

Despite the protection this law provides to patients, there is still a fear that the law is not doing enough in terms of infection control in light of the recent public storm surrounding the reusing of syringes by Dr. Harvey Finkelstein. 10,000 of his patients were notified that they could have been at risk and should be tested.

As of yesterday, 13 Finkelstein patients have tested positive for hepatitis B and nine for hepatitis C. The state has said it is impossible to determine whether Finkelstein’s office was the source of the infections.

New York State is similarly investigating the practice of Dr. E. Jacob Simhaee, a Manhasset obstetrician-gynecologist, for re-using syringes when he gave them flu shots last fall, the state Department of Health said yesterday. The state began investigating the practice of Dr. Simhaee, an obstetrician-gynecologist, in December after a complaint was filed with the Nassau County Department of Health.

The state’s release of information regarding Dr. Simhaee contrasts sharply with its handling of the case of Dr. Harvey Finkelstein. It waited three years before telling the public last fall that the Dix Hills doctor had reused syringes.

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