Durham abortion clinic owner voluntarily surrenders license

Aug. 26, 2013 @ 06:27 PM

A Durham abortion clinic owner who had planned to try to re-open his clinic after a state health department section ordered its closure in July has voluntarily surrendered his certificate to operate.

Meanwhile, a facility in Asheville whose license was also suspended by the department this summer has re-opened.

The two clinics, The Baker Clinic for Women in Durham and Femcare Inc. in Asheville, were two of three abortion clinics suspended by the department section this year. The third, A Preferred Woman’s Health Center in Charlotte, has re-opened. Prior to that, the last clinic to be suspended was the Charlotte clinic in 2007.

Ricky Diaz, a spokesman for N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, said in an email earlier this month that there has been no directive to increase inspections or closures of abortion facilities, and no change in policy or procedure.

“As inspection reports show, when egregious violations that pose an immediate threat to patient health and safety are found, Department inspectors do their job and act to protect North Carolinians from harm -- regardless of politics and what is in the news,” he said.

The state health department’s Acute and Home Care Licensure and Certification Section  notified Dr. John Baker July 5 that his certificate to operate The Baker Clinic for Women in Durham was suspended.

According to the notice, the clinic failed to ensure quality control in blood banking. Specifically, the notice said the clinic didn’t perform quality control tests for more than 108 patients who had received Rh factor blood tests and it failed to follow manufacturer’s instructions for the test, among other problems.

The test is used to determine if a patient is positive or negative for a marker present on some people’s red blood cells. Women who are Rh negative can produce antibodies harmful to future children if they’re exposed to Rh positive blood during an abortion.

The agency ordered the clinic to close, stating that the findings revealed a “potential imminent threat to the health and safety of patients.”

Baker had said in a phone interview in July that he planned to try to take corrective action in order to re-open.

But in a notice to the department section chief dated Wednesday, he said he was voluntarily surrendering his certificate to operate.

The clinic in Asheville, Femcare Inc, has re-opened. The clinic had been ordered to close July 31 after an inspection earlier that month found the facility didn’t have a contract with an anesthetist or with a pharmacist, and it failed to make sure staff members were trained in operating defibrillators in case of emergencies, among other issues.

According to a notice sent to the clinic Wednesday, a follow-up found that the facility had the systems it needed, and the suspension was lifted.

The center is an ambulatory surgical facility, which is different from the state’s 15 private abortion clinics that are not operated or licensed by a hospital and that can provide abortions within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The governor signed new legislation July 29 requiring state health department officials to write new rules for abortion clinics to make them “suitable facilities for the performance of abortions.”

The measure authorizes the department to apply any requirement for the licensure of ambulatory surgical centers, among other requirements, while not “unduly restricting access.” Department officials are expected to report on progress on the changes before Jan. 1.

“These higher standards will result in safer conditions for North Carolina women,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement about the signing. “This law does not further limit access and those who contend it does are more interested in politics than the health and safety of our citizens.”

The process to begin writing the rules has not yet begun.

Attempts on Monday to reach the owners of the Durham and Asheville clinics for comment were unsuccessful.