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Long Island Doctor’s Medical Malpractice Put Hundreds at Risk for HIV, Hepatitis

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Dr. Harvey Finkelstein, a physician at a Long Island Surgicenter, could have exposed hundreds of patients to deadly blood borne illnesses, including Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B and HIV, according to the Nassau County Health Department.  As a result, the health department is frantically trying to reach more than 600 of Finkelstein’s patients to warn of the potential danger they face as a result of his medical malpractice.

The Nassau County Health Department charges that Finkelstein did not follow proper infection control procedures at his Melville, Long Island Surgicenter.   The medical malpractice occurring at Finkelstein’s practice first came to the attention of the health department in December 2004, when a sharp eyed nurse there noticed similarities between two hepatitis C cases among the county’s roughly 1,000 that year.   Both patients had been treated by Finkelstein, and had received spinal injections at his Long Island Surgicenter.

In January 2005, state and local health officials investigating the Long Island Surgicenter medical malpractice visited Finkelstein’s to watch him work.   What they saw was astonishing.  The investigators’ report states that they observed “during two separate epidural spinal injections that the physician removed the needle from a previously used syringe (from the same patient), attached a new needle to this syringe and reused the syringe to draw up medications and dye from multidose vials. Backflow of blood was noted during the procedures.”   The health investigators soon pegged this type of improper infection control as the source of the two Hepatitis C infections.

Finkelstein was immediately told to quit reusing syringes.   He later received a letter from the Nassau County Health Department that included 11 recommendations for proper infection control at the surgicenter.  Among those recommendations: labeling syringes with “appropriate information;”making sure that unused portions of medications were discarded; and providing soap and towels for each hand washing sink.

The Long Island Surgicenter medical malpractice case is frightening in its potential.   The Nassau County Health Department initially informed 98 of Finkelstein’s patients who had received spinal injection on nine dates in 2004.  Of 94 patients tested, a total of seven were found to have Hepatitis C.   In July 2006, state health department officials decided to seek out all patients who had received injections from Finkelstein  between Jan. 1, 2000, and Jan. 15, 2005. It took more than a year for the Nassau County Health Department to go through Finkelstein’s records and determine which patients might have been exposed to blood borne pathogens.   This week, the health department started sending out 628 letters, informing people who had been treated by Finkelstein that they are at risk for HIV, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Finkelstein has told Newsday that the doctor has improved his infection control procedures.  However, it does appear that the doctor is trying to avoid blame for the medical malpractice that has endangered so many of his patients.  According to Newsday, several patients have told Nassau health officials that Finkelstein said they weren’t at risk for infection and discouraged them from getting tested.

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