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Dix Hills Doctor in Midst of Malpractice Scandal Takes Leave of Absence

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Dr. Harvey Finkelstein, the Dix Hills doctor at the center of a medical malpractice scandal, is no longer practicing medicine at three of the hospitals and clinics where he had privileges prior to news breaking that his re-use of syringes put patients at risk for infectious diseases.  This according to hospital officials and a statement on Finkelstein’s state Department of Health Web profile.   Finkelstein is the Dix Hills doctor who exposed patients—infecting at least one with hepatitis C—to blood-borne pathogen infections because of his practice of reusing syringes.  Finkelstein, an anesthesiologist since 1981whose patient base reaches into the thousands, practiced at the Pain Care Center of Long Island and had admitting privileges at the New Island Hospital in Bethpage, the North Shore University Hospital in Plainview, and the Long Island SurgiCenter in Melville.  Six of Finkelstein’s patients tested positive for hepatitis B and six for hepatitis C, according to the Nassau County Health Department.  Finkelstein asked for, and was granted, a six-month leave of absence at Plainview Hospital on November 19, two days after state officials visited his offices to search for more records once it became clear he had not turned them all over, as asked.

The brief statement about Finkelstein’s leave, which was posted on December 4th,  did not indicate why Finkelstein decided to take a temporary leave of absence at Plainview Hospital and New Island Hospital in Bethpage.  Finkelstein has also applied for leave at the Long Island Surgicenter in Melville, an administrator said.  State Health Department officials said infection control procedures were proper at those facilities, so no patients there were at risk. Meanwhile, the Nassau County district attorney’s office is investigating whether Finkelstein delayed notification to the more than 10,400 patients at risk for hepatitis B and C and HIV after they received injections at his two private offices in Plainview and Massapequa.

The DA believes it’s crucial that the investigation examine each and every aspect of the situation, including the reporting, compliance, and notification decisions made by the doctor, according to a spokesman for that office.

The Health Department took nearly three years to notify patients after learning in January 2005 that Finkelstein re-used syringes with multidose vials.  State officials blame Finkelstein for part of the wait, saying he refused to turn over patient information for notification and the list he turned over in July contained less than 700 patient names.  The health department has also come under fire for not disciplining Finkelstein nor taking into account his 10 malpractice settlements in nine years.

Finkelstein was not an employee of Plainview Hospital, New Island Hospital, or Long Island Surgicenter; his privileges allowed him to admit and treat patients of his private practice.

It remains unclear as to whether Finkelstein continues to practice at his private offices:  The Pain Care Medicine of Long Island in Plainview and Island Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Center in Massapequa.

Hepatitis C and B are both forms of viral hepatitis transmitted by infected blood, C causes chronic liver disease and B causes fever, debility, and jaundice.  HIV is a retrovirus leading to AIDS and also transmitted by blood.  Full-blown AIDS is invariably fatal.

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