A broader survey by the Maryland health department into all 16 of the state’s surgical abortion facilities, however, did find that the Germantown clinic was among 12 clinics that had a range of deficiencies. None of the problems presented an immediate and serious threat to the health and safety of patients, the department found.
But state health officials found life-threatening deficiencies at another provider, Associates in OB/GYN Care, which operates surgical abortion clinics in Silver Spring, Cheverly, Frederick and Baltimore. The health department suspended the provider’s license to operate three of its four clinics in March and reinstated them about three weeks later after the facilities fixed the problems, which related to preparing for and responding to emergencies, including the cardiac arrest of one patient.
This month, health department officials suspended the licenses of all four clinics after they found
additional “serious deficiencies in the medical oversight of patient care.” An unlicensed technician at the Baltimore clinic had given an abortion-inducing medication, misoprostol, to a woman without a doctor present and before any doctor or licensed health-care professional had any contact with her, in violation of state regulations, investigators found. When a doctor arrived, the doctor declined to complete a surgical abortion because the “facility is not equipped to do this procedure safely.”
The woman was 13 to 14 weeks pregnant with triplets, the clinic’s operator said.
The woman eventually went to another of the operator’s clinics, where a surgical abortion was completed with no complications, health officials said.
Investigators later determined that it was standard, unwritten protocol at all four clinics to give misoprostol to all patients who were at least 11 weeks pregnant, even if the patient had not been evaluated by a doctor and even if no physician was present.
After an administrative hearing Tuesday, the health department’s chief regulator ordered the suspensions to continue. Among the reasons, she noted, was that the clinics’ operator ”did not accept responsibility” for the unwritten protocol and blamed it on a single doctor.
In a statement, Associates in OB/GYN Care said it was disappointed with the suspension. ”We think it’s unfair,” said Bridget Wilson, communications outreach coordinator. She said the suspension was based on actions of a single independent contractor physician and not part of the facilities’ overall procedures. “When we learned of the issue, we forbade the office staff from following this physician’s request,” she said.