A Westport surgery center where rusty equipment and a broken fire alarm system were found by inspectors earlier this year has been placed on probation for two years and fined $7,500 by the state Department of Public Health.
The Center for Ambulatory Surgery at 32 Imperial Ave. is run by Dr. Joel Singer, whose own medical license was placed on probation in 2011, when he was also fined $29,000 for sloppy record-keeping and other violations at the center.
The latest action by DPH is included in an Aug. 15 consent order was released this week. Under the order, the center must hire a consultant to monitor improvements in such areas as the operating room, nurse training and staffing, medical record keeping and infection control.
Administrators at the center will have to meet with DPH officials monthly for two years, the order states.
Singer said Wednesday that he is making all of the improvements required by the state so he can reopen the center soon. He added that the two-year probation on his medical license was recently lifted. William Gerrish, a DPH spokesman, confirmed that Singer’s probation has ended.
“All of this is very good, positive news,” Singer said. “We’re working closely with the state Department of Public Health to comply with their requirements and to make sure nothing will happen again.”
Earlier this summer, DPH had temporarily suspended the center’s license because of the violations found by inspectors in March. The violations included a broken fire alarm control panel, rusty instruments, an unlocked refrigerator containing medications and worn-out brushes being used to clean instruments, DPH records show.
Singer said the fire alarm system was damaged when the center was flooded during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. He said he had no control over when the landlord would fix the fire alarm.
In March, state officials found that one registered nurse, instead of the required two, were present at the center during plastic surgery procedures on Dec. 20, 2012. They also found cases in which patients were given painkillers and antibiotics after surgery without a doctor’s order, records show.
The center also lacked documentation to show that 10 employees had been trained in how to prevent infections, DPH records said.
Singer, a 1966 graduate of Yale University’s medical school, has faced sanctions from the state dating to 1999.
In that year, Singer was placed on one year’s probation for inserting implants of different sizes into a patient during breast augmentation surgery, records show.
Under a May 2007 consent order, the state fined him $5,000 for a case of “incompetence/negligence.” He admitted to lapses in documenting post-surgical conversations between himself and a patient after complications ensued following her breast reduction surgery. The patient required a second operation after failing to heal properly.
In December 2011, the state Medical Examining Board fined Singer $25,000 for operating the Westport center with sloppy record-keeping and rusty and dirty equipment.
In March 2012, inspectors who visited the plastic surgery center again found several violations, including unqualified nurses, slipshod record keeping, improper sterilization procedures and unsanitary conditions.
Based on Connecticut’s actions, New York and California officials have also reprimanded or fined Singer because he has licenses to practice in those states as well.