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Patients of Dix Hills Doctor Urged to Come Forward As Probe Widens

Nov 21, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP The Dix Hills doctor medical malpractice probe is growing wider every day.  New York State is now looking for more patients of a Long Island doctor who may have exposed hundreds of people to blood borne diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV.  Earlier this week, the state health department had sent letters to more than 600 people treated by Dr. Harvey Finkelstein, urging them to be tested for Hepatitis and HIV.  But now, officials believe that even more people could have been exposed to these diseases by the Dix Hills doctor’s unsanitary practices, and they are looking for anyone who got an injection from Finkelstein starting in 1994.

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.  

The Nassau County Health Department initially informed 98 of Finkelstein’s patients who had received spinal injection on nine dates in 2004 that they could be at risk.  Of 94 patients tested, a total of seven were found to have Hepatitis C.   In July 2006, state health department officials decided to seek out all patients who had received injections from Finkelstein between Jan. 1, 2000, and Jan. 15, 2005. It took more than a year for the Nassau County Health Department to go through Finkelstein’s records and determine which patients might have been exposed to blood borne pathogens.   This week, the health department started sending out 628 letters, informing people who had been treated by Finkelstein that they are at risk for HIV, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B.

But now, investigators believe that even more of Finkelstein’s patients are in danger.   According to Newsday, Finkelstein told investigators that he only began administering injections to his patients in 2000.  But since news of the Dix Hills doctor’s malpractice broke, the health department has received calls from more than 250 other patients who are worried that they contracted a blood borne illness as the result of an injection administered by Finkelstein.  A spokesperson for the health department told Newsday that the calls indicate that the doctor had in fact given injections long before 2000.  

So now, the health department is looking for anyone who received an injection from the Dix Hills doctor starting in 1994. The state and county health departments are using Finkelstein’s billing records – which included information on more than 4,000 people -to locate as many patients as possible.  Unfortunately, the doctor’s billing system was changed in 2004, so an unknown number of patients are not included in those records.

For that reason, the state health department is urging anyone who believes they received an injection from Finkelstein prior to January 2005 and has not received a letter to call the health department at 800-278-2965.   So far, at least 157 patients of the Dix Hills doctor have scheduled free blood tests for HIV, and Hepatitis B and C with the Nassau County Health Department.   At least 28 people have been tested, and one has been found to have Hepatitis B.   The health department is trying to determine if that person’s illness is the result of medical malpractice by Finkelstein.

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