Saturday, November 18, 2006

Another Alabama clinic in trouble

New Woman All Women Health Care Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, is best known as the facility were an off-duty police officer was killed, and a nurse critically injured, in a 1998 bombing ultimately tied to Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park bomber. But now New Woman All Women is in the news for internal problems: their administrator, a registered nurse, was caught purchasing narcotics through the clinic and diverting them for her own use.

The drug violations were the most serious that health inspectors found in an inspection that concluded on September 21. Health officials found "the medications Tylenol with Codeine and Hydrocodone had been ordered and received by the facility," but there was no documentation indicating that the use of those medications for patients had been approved by the medical director.

The inspection report is not yet available on the health department web site. According to an Associated Press article, posted November 17 on the Ledger-Enquirer web site, other violations included "patients not being given preoperative medication on time, failure to verify whether pregnancy tests were given and failure to assure that ultrasounds were done."

The administrator, whose name I have been unable so far to determine, had her license revoked by the state due to the drug abuse. Clinic owner Diane Derzis told the AP that she was "fired on the spot" when inspectors uncovered the problem.

Rick Harris, Director of the Alabama Bureau of Health Provider Standards, stressed that the drug violation was the most serious problem uncovered in the inspection. He told the Associated Press, "Anybody could have a drug using employee, but the problem is the administrator's using the center's drugs to help her replenish her supply. That was the problem with the lack of proper management."

New Woman All Women's license will most likely be downgraded to probationary status. Clinic attorneys indicated that they planned to agree to the move. The clinic will be on probation for up to a year, and will be monitored closely during that time. Failure to correct all the problems within the year will result in license revocation.

New Woman All Women is not the only Alabama abortion clinic to attract attention in the past year.

  • Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery had been shut down in August after investigators found it had been operating for about a year without a backup physician. Such a physician would treat patients who had complications when the primary physician was unavailable. The clinic was also cited for lack of proper follow-up care for patients. In one case, an emergency room physician called to ask for guidance in treating a RHS patient who had come to him with complications; the RHS nurse infromed him that all of their doctors were out of town and thus unavailable. She told this physician "I guess it's your problem." Reproductive Health Services was permitted to re-open under probationary status. The inspection report is available here

  • Summit Medical Center in Birmingham was permanently closed in June after a woman, diagnosed by a nurse at Summit as being six weeks pregnant, was given abortion drugs without a doctor's prescription. Six days later the woman was rushed to a hospital, where she delivered a dead, near-term infant. The clinic had discharged the woman with the drugs, without referring her for proper care, even though she was suffering from dangerously high blood pressure. Summit is the clinic where Malachy DeHenre (pictured) performed the fatal abortion on Leigh Ann Alford in 2003. Summit's inspection reports are available here and here.

  • Beacon Women's Center, the Montgomery office of Summit Medical Center was put on probation last month. The inspection report citing deficiencies is available here. Among problems found were failure to properly log when patients were hospitalized for complications, and multiple medication-related violations.

    All three of these providers are (or were, in the case of Summit) National Abortion Federation member facilities.

    Harris told the Associated Press, "This will make three [abortion] clinics on probation and one that has lost its license. When four out of ten of the industry gets licensing action, that's a high number. That's a real high number."
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