Dix Hills Doctor Probe Expands, as New York Health Department Criticized for Slow ResponseNov 20, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP New York officials investigating a Dix Hills doctor who exposed hundreds of patients to Hepatitis C and other diseases said they were expanding their medical malpractice probe to include another 250 patients treated by Dr. Harvey Finkelstein at his Long Island office. Meanwhile, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has ordered a probe into the State Health Department’s handling of the Dix Hills doctor’s medical malpractice investigation, saying its nearly three-year delay in notifying the public was "deeply troubling."
The medical malpractice occurring at Finkelstein’s practice first came to the attention of the health department in December 2004, when it was discovered that two people with Hepatitis C had been treated by Finkelstein, and had received spinal injections at his Long Island practice. In January 2005, state and local health officials investigating the Dix Hills doctor visited Finkelstein to watch him work. The investigators saw Finkelstein reuse syringes on a patient, resulting in a backflow of blood from the previous patient. But although the State Department of Health knew that many of Finkelstein’s patients could have been exposed to Hepatitis C, HIV and other blood borne diseases by this conduct, they waited until this week to warn more than 600 of Finkelstein’s patients about the danger. Now the state plans to review more than 250 more records gathered from Finkelstein's offices following calls over the last week from former patients. They were not among the original 628 Finkelstein patients who received letters urging them to be tested for hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV.
Given Finkelstein’s serious lapses, many are asking why he is still being allowed to practice medicine. Gov. Eliot Spitzer and others have criticized the health department for waiting 34 months to contact former patients who might be at risk for blood borne diseases as a result of treatment by the Dix Hills doctor. Nassau County Health Department officials also were criticized for their response to Finkelstein's malpractice, with many calling for the resignation of acting Health Commissioner Dr. Abby Greenberg. But two Nassau County Executives defended Greenberg and blamed state officials for notification delays resulting from negotiations with Finkelstein's lawyers over the release of medical records.
For his part, Finkelstein maintains he did nothing wrong. Through his lawyer, the Dix Hills doctor released a statement saying, "I believe that throughout my medical career, I have been there for my patients and their families when they needed me. I will continue to be there for them in the future to attempt to alleviate their pain and help them live their lives more comfortably."
The investigation into the Dix Hills doctor’s practices will continue for some time. Former patients of Finkelstein who believe they may have exposed to blood diseases as a result of his treatment should call the state's hotline at 800-278-2965.