HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania health officials say renewed inspections uncovered poor conditions at two Philadelphia-area abortion clinics in the months after a drug investigation revealed a “house of horrors” facility operating for years in the city.
The physician who operated the two Abortion as an Alternative Inc. clinics, in Bensalem and the Germantown section of Philadelphia, received scathing reports and was ordered to suspend performing abortions.
Two days later, Dr. Soleiman M. Soli, 73, announced he would shut down the clinics instead. He then retired, according to the state Department of Health.
Soli’s operations are distinct from those of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, whose Women’s Medical Society in Philadelphia was the target of a major Philadelphia grand jury investigation. Gosnell is charged with eight counts of murder for the deaths of a woman and seven babies born alive, then fatally stabbed in the spine with scissors.
Problems at Soli’s clinics were found after Pennsylvania regulators renewed long-dormant routine inspections of free-standing abortion clinics around the state in the wake of the investigation into Gosnell and his staff.
At Soli’s clinics, the Department of Health found drugs decades past their expiration dates, inadequate or inoperable equipment, poor record-keeping and mishandling of fetal tissue.
“Dr. Soli served his patients for more than 53 years as a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist. He retired last year,” his attorney, Stanley J. Milavec Jr., said in an e-mail response. Milavec said Soli, who retired from practice Nov. 19, was not available for further comment.
An Oct. 26 inspection report of Soli’s Bensalem facility found that drugs and equipment required to resuscitate abortion patients were missing and that it took Soli and a secretary 10 minutes to figure out how to use the clinic’s oxygen tank, the mask for which was found covered in dust.
Dozens of expired drugs and medical equipment were found, some dating back decades, including Benadryl from 1970, a saline vial from 1978, progesterone from 1982 and Depo-Provera from 1989.
Sterile trays of instruments were not wrapped properly and the ultrasound machine, microscope and blood pressure cuffs had not been inspected, certified or calibrated, they said.
Soli’s medical license, first issued in 1967, expired at the end of December and he was placed on inactive status last month, according to the Department of State. The agency’s Board of Medicine had no discipline history for him.
Soli received a medical doctor’s degree from Shiraz University in Iran in 1958, according to American Board of Medical Specialties records.
At the Bensalem clinic, inspectors found that tissue from fetuses was left outside the building in unsecured containers for collection “for an undetermined length of time with potential exposure to the public.”
The Nov. 1 inspection of his Philadelphia clinic also found nonworking or missing equipment and expired pharmaceutical drugs, some that dated back to the early 1990s.
When inspectors inquired about fetal tissue samples inside a cabinet in procedure room, Soli responded that he did not know why they were there and then placed them in a trash bag for disposal, the state agency said. It was unclear how much tissue was handled that way, but the reports said it was used for microscopic examination.
The facility’s only bathroom lacked ceiling tiles, leaving the pipes exposed, inspectors said. They found Soli’s lunch was kept in the same refrigerator as the clinic’s drugs.
“Opened, uncapped needles were also observed lying directly on the floor under the cabinet with the identified medications,” inspectors said.
That was also where drugs for sterile intravenous use were stored, because Soli and his staff said they had to be hidden from neighborhood drug dealers. The inspection reports said the office had been broken into several times.
Soli told the inspectors he did not have a written transfer agreement with a hospital for emergency care, as required, but did have privileges at two hospitals.
Inspectors said Soli’s handwritten notes, in English and Arabic, were so hard to read it took him several minutes to decipher them himself.
After the inspections, the Health Department ordered him to cease performing abortions at both clinics and to file plans of correction.
The reports were provided to The Associated Press by the office of Gov. Tom Corbett more than a month after state officials disclosed the results of inspections of 22 other Pennsylvania abortion clinics following a January Right-to-Know Law request by the AP.
Corbett spokeswoman Janet Kelley said the Abortion as an Alternative clinic inspection reports were discovered as state officials reviewed the other 22 reports.
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