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Dix Hills Doctor Medical Malpractice Investigation Grows

Nov 19, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
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Medical Malpractice By A Dix Hills Doctor Is Could Become A Major Public Health Emergency.

Medical Malpractice by a Dix Hills doctor is could become a major public health emergency.  Nearly 630 patients recently received a letter from the State Department of Health advising them they could be at risk for hepatitis C and B and HIV, dangerous and life-threatening diseases with long-term and catastrophic effects.  A Dix Hills doctor—Dr. Harvey Finkelstein—was caught using dirty needles on his patients, routinely using improper and inappropriate infection control methods, and appears to be responsible for the spread of hepatitis C.

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.

In late 2004, a Nassau County Health Department nurse noticed unusual similarities in two of that year’s hepatitis C cases.  In both cases, the same Dix Hills doctor had administered spinal injections for back pain at around the same time.  One of the two patients treated by Finkelstein for chronic back pain learned he contracted hepatitis C following routine blood work.

County Officials Immediately Notified State Health Authorities.

County officials immediately notified state health authorities who focused their investigation on the Dix Hills doctor and his practice.  Finkelstein provided the state with a list of patients who received epidural injections in 2004, allowing a comparison of Finkelstein's patients to the state database of hepatitis C cases.  Of those tested, seven were found to have hepatitis C, which included the three initial cases, three known chronic cases, and one newly identified case. Ultimately, this case—one of the Dix Hills doctor’s—did not contract hepatitis C because of lapses in his infection control practices.

Officials from both jurisdictions observed Finkelstein at his Pain Care of Long Island clinic.  One patient received two separate epidural spinal injections, which is fine.  The problem is that the Dix Hills doctor removed the needle from a previously used syringe, attached a new needle to this syringe, and reused the same syringe to draw up medications and dye from multiple dose vials.  Oh, and, backflow of blood was noted.  This type of shoddy infection control was determined to be the source of contamination.  Finkelstein was notified at once and told not to reuse syringes to draw up medications from multiple dose vials and to immediately dispose of needles and syringes following use.  He was also advised, via letter, that practices at his clinic could place patients at risk for blood-borne pathogen transmission.  Recommendations to improve infection control, among them basic instructions such as correctly labeling syringes, ensuring unused medications are discarded, and providing soap and towels for each hand washing sink were also outlined.

A complaint filed by one of Finkelstein's patients with the Office of Professional Medical Conduct, the state disciplinary board for doctors resulted in the Dix Hills doctor agreed to three-year monitoring; a Finkelstein's spokesman claims the Dix Hills doctor has improved his infection control practices and is cooperating fully with state health officials.

Meanwhile, several patients state that Finkelstein assured them that not only were they not at risk, he discouraged from them being tested.

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