Abortion Center Cited for Health Violations Keeps Operating

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 11, 2011   |   10:34AM   |   Allentown, PA

A Pennsylvania abortion center in Allentown, that state health inspectors found to have multiple health and safety problems that could endanger women’s health, continues to operate amid the complaints.

Allentown Medical Services at 2200 Hamilton St. recently received citations concerning using unsterilized instruments on women, having drugs and reproductive devices on hand that were past their expiration date. Abortion clinic inspectors also found blood splattered on the walls and floor of a freezer, according to a report the Pennsylvania Health Department made public, the Morning Call newspaper reports.

The abortion facility operates under the name Allentown Medical Services but it has new owners. It changed hands after embattled abortion business owner Steven Brigham was prohibited from operating in Pennsylvania because of so many botched abortions and violations of health and safety laws for medical clinics. He gave up his Pennsylvania medial licensed because of problems in 1992 but was allowed to operate abortion centers administratively until the state finally clamped down on that practice.

The new information about AMS comes after a ruling by the Commonwealth Court last month that state health officials acted properly when they closed Allentown Medical Services down under Brigham. The newspaper indicates health department records show Rose Health Services Co., of Conshohocken now owns Allentown Medical Services, which failed a health inspection on May 26.

State officials said AMS “failed to maintain a safe and sanitary environment” and devices used in abortions had been sterilized but not wrapped to ensure they stayed that way. Several packages of surgical instruments “had an accumulation of brown debris in the hinge areas and brown staining on the inside of the packages” even though an AMS employee told officials they were sterilized and ready for use.

The newspaper also highlighted several other problems inspectors found:

In addition, inspectors found instruments in sterile packages that were past the expiration dates listed on the packages. Two disposable uterine catheters had expiration dates of March 15, 2003 and September 2005. Clonidine tablets were also out-of-date.

The report said: Other instruments were stored in dirty containers. A freezer for infectious waste in a scrub room was splattered and smeared with blood and the bottom of the freezer was coated with a “thick layer” of frozen blood.

Further, inspectors found violations in the recovery area, where patient care items such as pillows, blankets and heating pad covers were taken home and laundered by staffers “every once in a while.” The inspection report does not list consequences or a deadline for when the violations have to be addressed. But the Health Department has the authority to pull a license if violations continue.

The state report, which does not identify owners or employees by name, also said the Allentown office violated state law by allowing the patient safety officer to conduct a March 16 safety meeting by telephone from an office in Voorhees, instead of having a patient safety officer regularly on-site in Allentown.

The Commonwealth Court ruled that American Medical Associates and Allentown Medical Services should not be allowed to operate abortion centers in Pennsylvania — a decision the abortion business is appealing. It also ruled that Brigham should have no involvement in any abortion business in the state.

Brigham has a long history of hurting women in failed abortions and violating health and safety standards.

His New Jersey medical license has been suspended based on allegations that he illegally began abortions well beyond the 14 week limit in New Jersey and completed them at the Elkton, Maryland abortion center. The state wants his license permanently suspended.

Brigham was cited after a botched abortion left a woman requiring emergency hospitalization, and other cases of problems later surfaced.

Brigham’s attorney, Joseph M. Gorrell, argued the case should be dismissed and said that’s because Brigham has already been examined by the medical board on the same charges a decade ago.

The mid-1990s complaint was based in part on the 1994 New York case that resulted in the revocation of his medical license in that state. It detailed case after case of botched abortions and other miseries, describing what amounted to a shop of horrors operated by Brigham that also crossed state lines.

Brigham would insert laminaria in late-term patients at his office in Voorhees, New Jersey, then transport the women to New York for completion of their abortions.

The Inquirer newspaper indicates Brigham also filed papers in response to Maryland charges that he is practicing medicine without a license. The papers say Brigham was merely “engaging in consultation” and he asked the Maryland Board of Physicians to dismiss his case and allow him “to continue providing demonstrations, training, and assistance to Maryland doctors who seek his expertise and guidance.”

Brigham’s late-term abortion scheme was discovered when a patient suffered a life-threatening complication in Elkton and had to be air-lifted to Johns Hopkins Medical Center for emergency surgery.

Two of Brigham’s associate abortion practitioners, Nicola Riley and George Shepard, Jr. have also had their Maryland medical licenses suspended for aiding and abetting Brigham’s illegal late-term abortion scheme and other violations.

Recently, the New Jersey attorney general’s office accused Brigham of violating standards of care for four additional women seeking abortions at his centers. One case involves a woman from Canada whose Down syndrome child was killed in a late-term abortion.

An Associated Press report indicates the new concerns revolve around an August abortion Brigham did on a 35-year-old Canadian woman who was 33 weeks pregnant at the time. The unborn child was healthy in all respects, medical records show, and was targeted for an abortion only because of the Down syndrome.

Brigham employed his technique of starting the abortion in New Jersey and he then instructed the woman to drive to Maryland herself to complete the procedure.

The medical records do not say who completed the abortion in Maryland, where Brigham is not licensed to practice medicine.

AP indicates Dr. Gary Brickner wrote an expert opinion in the investigation saying the abortion procedure “seriously violated medical standards of care and, to my knowledge, is not sanctioned by any statute or regulation.” He said the abortion “did not involve a fetus with a lethal defect or a condition dangerous to the mother’s health.”

The document AP cites also mentions another case involving a woman who was in the 24th week of pregnancy. She was slated to complete her abortion in Maryland but began experiencing heavy bleeding while staying in a New Jersey hotel room and she eventually delivered a stillborn baby in a local hospital.

The state’s complaint also says none of the abortion centers Brigham operates are licensed ambulatory care facilities, it points out he has no admitting privileges at any New Jersey hospital and he is not trained as an obstetrician or gynecologist.

Attorney General Paula Dow wants Brigham’s license suspended and he has already agreed to stop practicing medicine at his abortion centers in Voorhees, Woodbridge, Phillipsburg and Toms River.