On October 29, 2020, Governor Wolf signed House Bill 81 into law, creating new minimum education and certification requirements for central service technicians and surgical technicians working in the Commonwealth, and regulating the practice of surgical technology. The Act will take effect on December 28, 2020.
Central Service Technicians
The Act defines central service technicians (“Central Tech”) as “an individual who provides the services of inspecting, assembling, decontamination, preparation, packaging and sterilization of reusable medical instruments or devices.” Under the Act, a health care facility cannot employ or otherwise contract for the services of a Central Tech unless the individual has successfully passed a nationally accredited central service exam for central service technicians and holds and maintains either a certified registered central service technician or a certified sterile processing and distribution technician credential. Currently employed health care facility Central Techs and contracted Central Techs are grandfathered from the requirements, but any Central Tech that is considered a new employee must meet the minimum requirements within 18 months from the date of hire. Techs must complete 10 hours of annual continuing education. The Act directs the Department of Health (“DOH”) to promulgate regulations necessary to implement the Act’s requirements, and grants the DOH general oversight.
The Act defines surgical technologist (“Surgical Tech”) as “an individual who is employed or contracted by a health care facility to perform surgical technology tasks and functions as directed.” The Act defines surgical technology to include a long list of tasks, such as assisting the surgeon with placing sterile drapes on the patient to establish the sterile operating field, and sponging and suctioning the operating site.
The Act prohibits a health care facility from employing or contracting for a Surgical Tech unless the individual:
- has successfully completed a surgical technologist program sponsored by an entity holding nationally recognized institutional or programmatic accreditation and holds and the individual maintains a surgical technologist certification from an accredited certification program;
- has successfully completed an appropriate training program for surgical technology in the US Army, Navy or Air Force; or
- provides evidence that the individual maintains a surgical technologist certification from an accredited certification program or was employed by the health care facility on or before the effective date of the Act, or was employed to practice surgical technology as the individual’s primary function in another health care facility at any time during the two years immediately preceding the Act’s effective date.
Unlike the Central Tech requirements, if a health care facility is unable to find an individual who meets the Act’s requirements after a diligent search, the facility may hire someone who does not meet the aforementioned requirements provided the facility makes and saves a record of its hiring efforts.
The Act represents a completely new regulatory scheme over these areas of practice and impacted facilities should implement policies and processes to ensure compliance.