New Jersey health officials say thousands of patients of the HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook may have been exposed to to HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Exposure to any one of these would be life-changing.
State health officials say thousands of patients of the HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, may have been exposed to serious bloodborne infections due primarily to issues with infection control procedures. Patients have been notified via mail, and more and more are joining a class action lawsuit that’s been filed against the center claiming to have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Exposure to any one of these would be life-changing.
The center’s mailed warning covers anyone who had procedures done between January and September 7, 2018, and administrator Betty McCabe said “deficiencies in infection control” involving instrument cleaning and medications injections are to blame. In one case, a health inspector noticed a stretcher in a hallway with a blood-stained sheet. It wasn’t properly disinfected even after the inspector blatantly pointed out it need to be changed. Surgical tools were also found to have “brown rust-like stains” and debris on them before use and poor drug storage methods were being followed. An outdated 2010 infection control plan was also discovered containing the name of an entirely different facility.
So far, a total of 3,778 patients have been contacted via mail and are being urged to get their blood tested to ruled out the bloodborne infections. Attorney Michael Maggiano initially filed the class action lawsuit and said, so far, he’s been contacted by a few dozen people who underwent procedures and are anxiously awaiting their test results.
“It feels like a double fraud, because they’re sending me for testing at Hudson Hospital in Secaucus, which is owned by the same people that own HealthPlus,” said one of his clients, Cristal Irons, a trained psychotherapist, who received the letter in the mail regarding the possible infections.
“I’m just left in panic and fear. I’m depressed. All I want to know is what’s going on,” another patient, Kristin DeBenedictis, said after opening hers.
“Yesterday was the worst day of my life,” said patient Mahogany Clifton of when she received her letter. “I’m scared, scared to death these people would put us in danger…I don’t trust nobody, feel betrayed. My life is not normal now.”
Facility representatives said an investigation determined that only “a handful of people who have been removed” were primarily responsible for the problems. Two employees were terminated after it was determined thousands of unsuspecting patients may have been exposed to disease, and the former director of nursing resigned. McCabe said the HealthPlus is offering to pay for medical costs associated with follow-up testing and all testing will be free-of-charge to patients.
One individual has tested positive for chronic hepatitis B so far, but it is unclear whether it was contracted at the facility or something the patient had this prior to the visit. The New Jersey Department of Health will conduct additional testing to determine whether or not HealthPlus is responsible. It may take weeks or even months for the agency to make a final determination. The total number of individuals who have been affected by HealthPlus’ lax protocols is also still unclear.