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Dix Hills Doctor Medical Malpractice Investigation Expands, Leads to Finger Pointing

Nov 23, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
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New York Officials Expanding Their Investigation.

Dr. Harvey Finkelstein, the Dix Hills doctor whose medical malpractice exposed patients to blood-borne pathogen infections, including Hepatitis C and B and HIV/AIDS is under review again.  New York officials investigating the Dix Hills doctor are expanding their investigation to include 250 additional patients, bringing the total number of patients involved to nearly 1000.

Finkelstein, an anesthesiologist since 1981, practices at the Pain Care Center of Long Island and has admitting privileges at the New Island Hospital in Bethpage, the North Shore University Hospital in Plainview, and the Long Island SurgiCenter in Melville.

The New YorkState Department of Health—the lead agency responsible for informing New Yorkers about health threats—knew of Finkelstein’s shoddy practices, but took until this week to send 628 letters to at-risk patients.  Given Finkelstein’s serious lapses and unsanitary practices, many—including Governor Eliot Spitzer—criticize the agency for waiting nearly three years to contact Finkelstein’s former patients.  Many critics are calling for resignation of acting Health Commissioner Dr. Abby Greenberg, while others blame state officials for notification delays resulting from negotiations with Finkelstein’s lawyers over the release of medical records.  CURE-NY, a nine-group advocacy coalition, called Monday for a state crackdown on doctors causing the most medical errors and malpractice payments.  Finkelstein has had 10 malpractice settlements and is among 127 of the state's 70,000 physicians with similar history.  The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement’s Long Island chapter called for Finkelstein’s license
to be suspended.

Examination Into The State Health Department’s Handling.

Spitzer ordered an examination into the state health department’s handling of Finkelstein’s medical malpractice review.  The health commissioner met Monday with staff to prepare the report and a state epidemiologist is scheduled to visit Long Island this week to examine nearly 200 new files pulled following calls to the state’s hotline.

Finkelstein told investigators he began administering injections in 2000.  Based on information received from over 250 patient calls to the health department, the doctor was giving injections long before 2000.  State and county health departments are using Finkelstein’s billing records, which include information on over 4,000 people, to locate patients back to 1994 who may be at risk.  Finkelstein’s billing system changed in 2004, so an unknown number of patients are not included in those records.

Finkelstein came to the health department’s attention in 2004 when a Nassau County Health Department nurse noticed unusual similarities in two of that year’s hepatitis C cases.  Two patients received spinal injections for back pain at around the same time by Finkelstein with one learning he subsequently contracted hepatitis C following routine blood.  Officials from local and state jurisdictions observed Finkelstein reusing syringes to draw up medications and dye from multiple dose vials, including syringes containing blood backflow.  This type of unsanitary behavior was determined to be the source of contamination.

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.

After a 2005 state intervention, Finkelstein changed his procedures.  Under state monitoring for three years, he continues to practice and continues to maintain his innocence.

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