The NC Department of Health and Human Services has suspended the license of the only abortion clinic in North Carolina that would have met the ambulatory surgical center requirements laid out in the motorcycle safety/abortion restriction bill signed into law earlier this week.

The first version of the bill included a provision requiring abortion clinics to meet the same standards for licensing as ambulatory surgical centers. The final version, SB 353, differs slightly, authorizing DHHS to write new rules as strict as those required for ambulatory surgical centers rather than mandating the regulations outright. More information about the bill here.

While it’s not certain yet whether DHHS will opt to impose the same restrictive standards included in the original bill, it remains a possibility. The agency has until Jan 1, 2014 to complete a plan for the new rules.

Femcare is the only clinic in the state that has met ambulatory surgical center standards in the past.

Some of the specific problems DHHS cited with the facility, via WCNC:

  • 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.

WCNC – DHHS closes abortion clinic in Asheville

Read the full FemCare report here.

The inspection of the clinic took place just two days after the state House voted to approve SB 353. The next week, the state Senate approved the bill.

FemCare statement from Lorraine Cummings MD, via ABC:

Since the State’s last site visit in August 2006 there have been no changes in our operating protocols, but increasing regulations require us to make changes.

Standards that were acceptable when we were last inspected have changed and, as soon as we were notified of them two weeks ago, we began the process of meeting each one  of them.

We have had no patient infections using our former protocols.  We expect to be in compliance soon with the required standards and will return to serving our patients as soon as possible.

WLOS – Femcare license suspended

Also of note – DHHS announced Tuesday night that the State Health Director, Dr. Laura Gerard, had resigned from her position effective immediately. No explanation was offered in the Department’s press release.

Gerard’s letter of resignation, via NC Policy Watch:

Although I have demonstrated the ability to produce accomplishments that require work and collaboration with diverse groups and across political aisles, I acknowledge that I have significant differences and disagreements with many of the policy and administrative directions that I see unfolding in North Carolina and in the Department of Health and Human Services. These differences are making it increasingly impossible to continue to be effective in my current role.

Read the full letter here: State Health Director resigns from DHHS

DHHS spokeswoman Julie Henry says Gerard’s resignation is not related to Femcare.


More information:

News & Observer – NC health department suspends license for Asheville abortion clinic

North Carolina Health News – State health officials suspend Asheville abortion clinic’s license

Carolina Public Press – Asheville abortion clinic’s license suspended by state health agency

Citizen-Times – State to close Asheville abortion clinic

Citizen-Times – Anti-abortion groups praise McCrory for clinic closure

RH Reality Check – North Carolina clinic license suspended, but clinic expects to reopen


Related stories:

McCrory signs abortion restrictions bill

NC ob-gyn organizations come out strongly against new abortion bill

Speech by Rep. Rick Glazier on abortion restrictions bill

More safety for motorcyclists, less safety for women