Lesson learned? Medical office reopens after Hep C outbreak

Lauren Lollini is a patient safety advocate who has been integral in changing laws to keep patients safe as well as a member of the Drug Diversion Prevention Committee.
Lauren Lollini is a patient safety advocate who has been integral in changing laws to keep patients safe as well as a member of the Drug Diversion Prevention Committee.

Earlier this year, I commented on the closure of a medical office in Santa Barbara for various infection control violations. It was in the first half of the year and I was feeling hopeful because in 2014 none of the investigations which took place were found to have any infectious disease transmissions. And then in early April news spread the office of Dr. Allen Thomashefsky’s was being investigated.

I felt it important to report again on this situation almost 6 months later as the office was given the approval to re-open last month. Am I disappointed that his practice was able to stay open in Oregon with certain restrictions in place? Am I saddened that this California office was able to be re-opened? Not as long as the proper procedures are implemented.

What saddens me is that a physician who has been in practice for over 30 years did not think it important to either wash his hands or wear gloves during a procedure. What disappoints me is that this same doctor, who specializes in injection therapies, reused syringes to inject different patients. Despite the needles being changed, the syringes remained the same.

Just last week, I commented on the New Jersey company which had found the healthcare professional who was administering flu shots was simply changing the needles and not the syringe putting dozens of people at risk. It is the short cuts which can cause significant damage. The lack of proper hygiene, the reusing of syringes, the improper labeling all can contribute to the spread of infection.

Things were so bad in Dr Thomashefsky’s practice that state health officials could not comment on exactly how several patients were infected with Hepatitis C. Let me repeat, there were so many breaches in the infection control protocols that there were multiple ways patients may have been infected.

So if you ask me what saddens and disappoints and disgusts me, I’d say it is the egregious lack of concern for patient health and safety. Because it was easier for this medical facility to not change syringes, to not wash hands, to utilize multi-use vials, to not follow proper labeling procedures, to improperly dispose of hazardous waste, to employ staff who were not sufficiently trained and the other violations found in the extensive investigation, it suddenly made the lives of many others very difficult.

So with the investigation ongoing and the violations corrected, Dr Thomashefsky’s Santa Barbara office was given the go ahead to re-open. Lesson learned? We shall see…action still may be taken against the doctor. And in the wake of it all lies the many people (total number still to be determined) who must endure the next steps to getting themselves well again against the Hepatitis C virus. And once again I am left with the knowledge that this outbreak could have so easily been prevented.

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