Alabama Health Dept. forces closure of abortion clinic

Posted by: John Shryock - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama Department of Public Health confirms that it will force the closure of a Montgomery area abortion clinic after "numerous and serious violations."

ADPH attorney Pat Ivie confirmed the closure to WSFA 12 News Friday afternoon.

Ivie said a three month-long investigation of Beacon Women's Center in Montgomery showed serious violations of state health codes.

The 68 page ADPH report [ READ THE FULL REPORT HERE] includes detailed information on violations such as failure to inspect medical equipment, the inability to conduct a controlled drug count during procedures and failure to follow administrative guidelines informing patients of their rights.

During one visit by surveyors, the report indicates that the Registered Nurse on duty was unable to get into the controlled medical cabinet because the Medical Director left the only key in his Selma office. Seventeen patients who were scheduled to have procedures that day were given the option of rescheduling their appointment or going ahead without the use of sedation. All of the patients chose to go ahead with their procedures without sedation.

Expired drugs, lack of emergency medical equipment such as oxygen tanks and failure to document testing of key equipment such as defibrillators were also cited on one visit.

The report indicated that surveyors requested several times to see the clinic's written policy on parental consent for minors and suspected abuse or neglect of a child in accordance with law. The investigation found no written policies. In an interview, the Medical Director was asked if he reported minors who sought an abortion. His response: "Oh year. I ask them, but they (the minor patients) lie to you..." He questioned officials on whether he had to report minors even if "nothing comes up", to which the reply was "yes."

In another violation, documents showed that many patients filled out forms indicating they'd been offered an ultrasound or the chance to watch a video called 'Did You Know'. Some employees admitted they never offered patients the opportunity, while one said the video was offered on the first counseling session. Further inspection showed the room where the video was to be watched had no video player.

Patient medical records also fell under heavy scrutiny. Many forms were either missing or not completely filled out. Times, charts, medication doses and other critical historical references were not recorded in many cases, according to the investigation.

The investigation by nurses at the clinic took place between December 2009 and February 2010 after the Department received complaints from patients. After reporting on their findings, ADPH ordered a hearing on the matter to revoke Beacon's business license.

Before that hearing could be held, however, Beacon officials entered into a consent agreement to close its doors. A consent order now requires Beacon Women's Center to remain closed and not to perform any abortions beyond June 11.

The business will remain open through June 18 to follow up on any patients who have previously been seen.

A call for comment by WSFA 12 News to the company's Atlanta, Georgia headquarters was followed only by confirmation that the Montgomery branch was closed.

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