By Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times
May 3, 2011
A Beverly Hills outpatient surgery center affiliated with the 1-800-GET-THIN advertising campaign has been advised to make improvements or risk losing its accreditation, according to a spokeswoman for the center's accrediting agency.
The Joint Commission, a private, nonprofit organization that accredits thousands of U.S. hospitals and clinics, made an unannounced inspection of the New Life Surgery Center on March 25 after receiving a complaint, said Joint Commission spokeswoman Elizabeth Eaken Zhani. She declined to identify the source of the complaint.
After the inspection, noted on the commission's website, the Joint Commission issued a report that addressed four general areas in which the surgery center needed to make improvements: environment of care, infection control, leadership and medication management, Zhani said. She declined to give specific details.
The surgery center has up to 60 days to make the required improvements, Zhani said. If it fails to do so, she said, the facility could lose its accreditation. California requires all outpatient surgery centers to be accredited by an approved agency.
Robert Silverman, an attorney for the surgery center, said the request for improvements was routine and that the facility continues to hold the Joint Commission's "highest level of accreditation."
"They merely recommended improvement," Silverman wrote in an email to The Times. "These recommendations are normal and standard protocol following any inspection. The whole purpose of accreditation is to always propose new ideas for the highest level of patient care and safety."
Silverman said the improvements requested in the Joint Commission report "do not affect patient safety or quality of care." He said the inspectors were highly impressed with the Beverly Hills facility.
"In fact, the two surveyors stated, 'We lament all the negative publicity that you have been getting because we are truly impressed with your operations!'" he wrote in the email.
It is not unusual for the Joint Commission to find areas that need improvement during inspections, said Mark Crafton, executive director of state and external relations for the Joint Commission.
Zhani characterized the inspection as a "for-cause survey" because it was based on a complaint and was not part of the normal accreditation process.
"If the complaint is serious enough, they will go out and do a for-cause survey. That is not routine," Zhani said.
Based in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., the Joint Commission is one of a handful of agencies authorized by California to accredit outpatient surgery centers.
The New Life Surgery Center is located at 9001 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 106, in Beverly Hills. Businesses previously operating at that address include Beverly Hills Surgery Center and Almont Ambulatory Surgery Center.
The clinic at the Wilshire Boulevard address was previously accredited by another agency, the American Assn. for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities. That group revoked its accreditation of the clinic in April 2009.
The clinic at 9001 Wilshire was subsequently accredited by the Joint Commission. The clinic is one of several outpatient centers that receive patient referrals from the 1-800-GET-THIN ads promoting Lap-Band weight loss surgery.
Since June 2009, three people have died within days of having Lap-Band surgeries in a clinic operated at that Beverly Hills location, according to lawsuits and interviews with relatives of deceased patients. A fourth patient died after Lap-Band surgery at a clinic in West Hills that also receives patient referrals from the 1-800-GET-THIN advertising campaign, according to a lawsuit filed by the family of the deceased.
None of the patients died at the clinics themselves. Silverman has defended the care that each of the deceased patients received at the surgery centers.
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