Despite red flags at California surgery centers, accreditors award gold seals

As federal or state authorities waved red flags, state-approved accreditation agencies awarded surgery centers gold seals of approval, a Kaiser Health News investigation found.
Source: APStock

At his surgery center near San Diego, Rodney Davis wore scrubs, was referred to as “Dr. Rod” and carried the title of director of surgery. But he was a physician assistant, not a doctor, who anesthetized patients and performed liposuction with little input from his supervising doctor, court records show.

So it was perhaps no surprise, in 2016, when an administrative judge stripped Davis of his license, concluding it was the only way to “protect the public.” State officials also accused two former medical directors of Pacific Liposculpture of enabling Davis to act as a doctor.

One powerful authority in California took a different view. The state-approved private accreditation agency that oversees the center left its approval in place. So the center is still operating and Davis remains an owner and administrator, state records show.

California is the only state with more than 1,000 surgery centers that has given private accreditors a lead role in oversight. Those accreditors are typically paid by the same centers they evaluate.

That approach to oversight has created a troubling legacy of laxity, an investigation by Kaiser Health News shows. In case after case, as federal or state authorities waved red flags, state-approved accreditation agencies affixed gold seals of approval, according to a KHN review of hundreds of pages of doctors’ disciplinary records, court files and accreditor reports — which are public only for California surgery centers.

One accreditation inspector called a doctor’s anesthesia technique “impressive” just months before the state medical board accused her of “gross negligence” for putting patients in deep sedation without the training to save them if they stopped

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