DHHS suspends license of abortion clinic in Asheville - WFLA News Channel 8

DHHS suspends license of abortion clinic in Asheville

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The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that it has suspended the license of a medical clinic in Asheville that specializes in abortions.

The DHHS said its inspectors found "egregious violations of existing rules that revealed an imminent threat to the health and safety of patients" at the Femcare Inc. facility.

"Inspectors from Division of Health Service Regulation found the facility failed to comply with 23 separate rules," Drexdal Pratt, director of DHHS' Division of Health Service Regulation, said in a statement. "We take rule violations very seriously and, when necessary, take firm action to prevent harm to patients and clients in the facilities that we license regulate and inspect."

The move closes the one clinic in the state that Planned Parenthood said would meet new, tougher guidelines signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.

On Monday, McCrory signed a bill significantly tightening rules about clinics that perform abortions. The law says DHHS may apply the standards of an ambulatory surgical center to abortion clinics.

Critics say the regulations will effectively close most of the state's 16 abortion clinics because only one now meets the standards of an outpatient surgical center. 

"Our understanding is that the only center that currently meets ambulatory surgical center guidelines is FemCare in Asheville," Melissa Reed, vice president for public affairs of Planned Parenthood Health System, was quoted as saying in the Mountain Xpress news. "None of the Planned Parenthood centers in the state currently meet those guidelines."

An ambulatory surgical center costs about $1 million more to build than an abortion clinic, Pratt told lawmakers earlier this month.

Among the issued cited by the DHHS, the facility:

  • Failed to maintain anesthesia (nitrous oxide gas) delivery systems in good working condition, with torn masks and tubing held together with tape. This could lead to patients not receiving the intended dosage and risk patients not being fully sedated during surgical procedures, leading to pain and physical harm.
  • Failed to ensure emergency equipment had weekly checks to ensure the equipment was suitable for use in patient care and failed to ensure that emergency medicine wasn't expired.
  • Failed to have a resuscitator available.
  • Failed to sweep and mop the operating room floor and failed to properly clean operating room beds.
  • Failed to have a director of nursing responsible and accountable for all nursing services.
  • Failed to have an agreement/contract with an anesthetist or anesthesiologist.
  • Failed to have an agreement/contract with a registered pharmacist to assure appropriate methods, procedures and controls for obtaining, dispensing, and administering drugs.

On Tuesday, the State Health Director resigned, citing policy differences with the new administration but without saying what those specific differences were.

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