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NJ Oncologist Linked to Hepatitis Outbreak Has License Suspended

Apr 6, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP The New Jersey oncologist who potentially exposed thousands of patients to serious, life-threatening diseases including hepatitis B and C and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has had his license to practice medicine suspended, effective immediately, and on an emergency basis, the Associated Press (AP) is reporting.

According to a prior AP article, New Jersey health officials confirmed that about 3,000 people treated by Dr. Parvez Dara must undergo testing for the blood borne diseases after five of his patients reportedly tested positive for hepatitis B.  Hepatitis B is a liver infection that can be transmitted through blood and blood products.

The state was looking to temporarily suspend Dara’s medical license said Asbury Park Press (APP) last week and Dara was scheduled to face the state Board of Medical Examiners Friday; regulators were also looking at a number of other health code violations.

While Dara’s attorney claims that the five patients also were seen at the same hospital and could have been contaminated there, health officials argued that the hospital was ruled out as an infection source. “The investigation looked at all sites where the patients received care…. The only common site was the physicians’ office,” said state Health Department spokeswoman Marilyn Riley, quoted the AP, last week.

But, Friday, investigators reported finding blood in a variety of areas in the doctor’s office including the floor of the chemotherapy room and in a bin that held blood vials, said the AP, which noted that the investigators also found open medicine vials, “unsterile saline and gauze” as well as cross-contamination of ”pens, refrigerators, and countertop; use of contaminated gloves; and misuse of antiseptics,” among other violations.

According to Deputy Attorney General Siobhen Krier, who was speaking to investigators, “This was not a one-time episode.  This is a case of egregious, bad medical judgment displayed over a long period of time,” quoted the AP.  Krier also said that Dara’s history of health code violations not only posed “a clear and imminent danger to the public,” but also was occurring as far back as 2002, said the AP, with Dara paying close to $56,000 in fines for infection control health code violations.

The committee said that Dara showed “a significant and gross deficiency in judgment,” that could not be corrected by merely changing his practices, said the AP.  “Dr. Dara’s own testimony has not persuaded the committee that he has an appreciation for the gravity of multiple breaches of basic infection control practices,” the committee said in the license suspension order, quoted the AP.

APP reported last week that a 32-page court order requested late last month by Attorney General Anne Milgram sought “the suspension or revocation of the license of Respondent to practice medicine and surgery. It being alleged in the Complaint that Respondent is presently incapable of safely discharging the functions of a licensee and it being further alleged that the continued practice of medicine and surgery by Respondent pending final disposition of the Verified Complaint represents a clear and imminent danger to the public health safety and welfare.”

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