NC PlannedParenthood abortion clinic had violations in three inspections

H/T Journal Now

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Winston-Salem that performs abortions was cited for violations by state inspectors during routine inspections in 2008, 2010 and 2012, according to reports obtained from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Three abortion clinics — in Charlotte, Durham and Asheville — have been closed in recent months because of violations of health and safety regulations.

Winston-Salem’s only abortion clinic, operated by Planned Parenthood of Winston-Salem on Maplewood Avenue, has not faced closure. The clinic passed re-inspections after correcting the problems that were discovered.

Some of the violations involve record-keeping errors and similar mistakes. But during a 2010 inspection a state inspector found that the clinic did not use proper procedures in performing a blood test for the Rh (Rhesus) factor — a routine blood test for pregnant women.

The test involves mixing a patient’s blood with a substance that reveals the presence of the Rh factor, a type of protein found on red blood cells. According to the state inspection report, the method that the Winston-Salem clinic used didn’t match the instructions listed by the manufacturer of the test.

The state inspector reported that the center manager said she was unaware that a difference existed between the procedures the lab was using and those outlined by the maker of the test. The lab agreed to update its procedures.

In another violation relating to Rh-factor testing, the 2010 inspection found that after the lab had allowed Rh testing supplies to get cooler than the acceptable level on eight days during December 2009, the lab failed to ensure that the problem was corrected. The state inspector said that the temperature log for the refrigerator showed that the temperature had been increased after being reduced incorrectly, but there was no documentation showing that the temperature had been returned to the correct level.

The Baker Clinic for Women in Durham that was shut down by the state this summer also incorrectly tested Rh-factor samples, The Associated Press reported. But Ricky Diaz, the communications director at the Department of Health and Human Services, said that the Baker clinic had other problems and that the inspections at the Winston-Salem clinic and in Durham cannot be compared.

“Every inspection is different,” Diaz said. “At the Baker clinic, their violations rose to the level of presenting an immediate threat, where the other (in Winston-Salem) did not. The Baker clinic failed to have qualified staff and failed to correct the problem.”

Planned Parenthood did not return calls requesting comment on the Winston-Salem inspections.

The Mayo Clinic’s website — cited by Diaz as an authoritative source on Rh-factor testing — says that the testing is done to determine whether someone is Rh positive or Rh negative — in other words, whether someone carries the Rh protein or not.

In a typical pregnancy, according to the Mayor Clinic, the test is conducted to identify a woman’s Rh factor. If the woman is Rh negative and her baby is Rh positive, treatment is required to prevent complications.

But the Mayo Clinic goes on to say that if a woman is Rh negative she may need treatment in any situation where her blood may come in contact with Rh positive blood — including miscarriage, abortion, bleeding during pregnancy and other situations.

Diaz said that any clinic that is shut down can reopen if it demonstrates it has corrected the problems that resulted in closure. For instance, the clinic in Charlotte that was closed in April has since reopened.

Clinic inspections have been in the news because of new regulations adopted by the N.C. General Assembly this year. Since those regulations are not yet in effect, all of the inspections — including the ones that resulted in clinic closures — were under the existing regulations.

Abortion opponents have hailed the closures as proof that stronger regulations are needed. Supporters of abortion rights have said that the closures prove that the existing system was already working well.

The new regulations, which could take some time to develop, were designed to regulate abortion clinics under the same standard as outpatient surgical centers. Although critics have said the changes will result in the closure of abortion clinics, Diaz said that he doesn’t understand how the claim can be made since the regulations have not been developed.

Diaz said that despite media reports to the contrary, it isn’t true that the state has been stepping up its inspections as the General Assembly pondered new restrictions.

“Department inspectors do their job by inspecting facilities according to the code and, at times, must act to protect North Carolinians from harm — regardless of politics and what is in the news,” Diaz said.

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