The state's top health official told a joint state committee today that action is already underway to ensure that the horrific conditions discovered during a raid last year at a Philadelphia abortion clinic are never found in Pennsylvania again.
Dr. Eli Avila, the newly-named secretary of health, said he has instituted a range of policy measures since taking office in January including mandatory inspections, better monitoring of complaints and improved communication with the state's professional licensing agency.
"I discovered a broken and disjointed system," said Avila. "My focus is on accountability and the ultimate goal is to ensure the health and safety of women who use clinics."
Physician Kermit Gosnell is charged with murder in connection with the deaths of seven babies born alive and a female patient at the Women's Medical Society in West Philadelphia. Federal drug agents found deplorable conditions at the clinic when they raided it in February 2010, including blood-stained sheets and walls and cat feces littering the floors. The Philadelphia District Attorney, Seth Williams, filed paperwork today indicating he will seek the death penalty for Gosnell.
Earlier this month Gov. Corbett fired six state officials he blamed for allowing the clinic to operate unchecked for 17 years and pledged to institute reforms to improve the inspection process.
Avila told House and Senate lawmakers he will take personal responsibility for reviewing clinic complaints and plans to visit all 24 licensed free-standing abortion clinics - as opposed to those connected to hospitals - in the state.
Sen. Pat Vance (R., Cumberland), chairman of the Senate Health and Public Welfare Committee, said she was pleased with the response by the Corbett administration, but said it is still necessary to pass laws to protect the health and safety of patients at abortion clinics over the long term.