By Maria Wiering
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene suspended the licenses of four surgical abortion clinics, including three whose licenses were previously suspended but briefly reinstated.
The licenses of the four locations of Associates in OB/GYN Care LLC, in Baltimore, Cheverly, Frederick and Silver Spring were suspended May 9 after the DHMH’s Office of Health Care Quality (OHCQ) “identified serious deficiencies in the medical oversight of patient care.”
Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Maryland’s health secretary, announced the suspensions May 24 in a letter to Maryland Sen. Thomas McLain Middleton (D-Charles County), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Del. Peter A. Hammen (D-Baltimore City), chairman of the House of Delegates’ Health and Government Operations.
The letter updated the General Assembly members on the progress of the DHMH’s efforts to enforce new surgical abortion facility regulations, adopted last summer. The Maryland Catholic Conference was among the advocates for new regulations.
In March, the DHMH suspended the licenses of the Associates in OB/GYN Care facilities in Baltimore, Cheverly and Silver Spring, but reinstated them in April after receiving “acceptable plans of correction addressing the issues” from management.
After the license reinstatements, the OHCQ investigated a complaint about Associates in OB/GYN Care patient care and “concluded that the deficiencies posed a serious and immediate danger to patients,” according to Sharfstein, although “there were no serious adverse events associated with these deficiencies.” The deficiencies led the OHCQ to revoke all four locations’ licenses.
The four Associates in OB/GYN Care facilities are among 16 surgical abortion facilities the OHCQ surveyed this spring. Others include the Germantown office of Dr. LeRoy Carhart, whose patient died in February after a late-term abortion. Another woman died earlier this year at a Baltimore hospital after undergoing an abortion procedure at the Baltimore Associates in OB/GYN Care location.
Sharfstein’s letter refers to “a complaint related to a women’s death,” stating that the OHCQ investigation “identified no deficiencies with respect to this compliant.” The letter does not make clear to which death he was referring.
Sharfstein said that the OHCQ is investigating complaints of unlicensed surgical abortion facilities.
“The establishment of an effective new regulatory program for surgical abortion facilities is moving forward in Maryland,” Sharfstein said. “Through close oversight and outreach, the department intends to use what it has learned during the first round of surveys to advance the implementation of these regulations, so that patients in Maryland have access to safe and effective health care services.”
Earlier this year, 30 General Assembly members expressed concern to Sharfstein that the OHCQ’s surveys were not being conducted in a timely manner, and that facilities were being licensed prior to inspection.
Copyright (c) May 28, 2013 CatholicReview.org