Day surgery centers lax on infection control, study says

CHICAGO -- A new federal study finds that many same-day surgery centers, where patients get such things as foot operations and pain injections, have serious problems with infection control.

Failure to wash hands, wear gloves and clean blood glucose meters were among the reported breaches. Clinics reused devices meant for one person or dipped into single-dose medicine vials for multiple patients.

The findings, appearing in today's Jo urnal of the American Medical Association, suggest that lax infection practices may pervade the nation's more than 5,000 outpatient centers, experts said.

"These are basic fundamentals of infection control, things like cleaning your hands, cleaning surfaces in patient-care areas," said the lead author, Dr. Melissa Schaefer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study was prompted by a hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas believed to have been caused by unsafe injection practices at two now-closed clinics.

It's the first report from a push to more vigorously inspect U.S. outpatient centers, a growing segment of the healthcare system that annually performs more than 6 million procedures and collects $3 billion from Medicare.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement that her department is expanding its hospital infection control plan to add ambulatory surgical centers and dialysis centers.