NJ facility may have exposed many to HIV, Hepatitis B, C - one positive test so far

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, December 31, 2018
Patient tests positive for Hepatitis C at NJ surgery center
A state report says as many as 3,000 people may have been exposed to HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

SADDLE BROOK, New Jersey (WABC) -- A New Jersey surgery center that may have exposed more than 3,000 patients to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C used poor drug storage methods, an outdated infection control plan and unacceptable sterilization practices, according to a new state report.

Operating rooms at the HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook were not properly cleaned and disinfected between procedures, according to the report from the state Department of Health that was made public Friday. In one instance, an inspector saw a stretcher in a hallway with a blood-stained sheet that wasn't properly disinfected even after the inspector pointed it out to staffers.

State surveyors also found the facility improperly stored sterilized items, jeopardizing their cleanliness, while other sterilized instruments revealed rust-like stains, the report said.

During a news conference Saturday, facility representatives said an investigation determined that "a handful of people who have been removed" were mostly responsible for the lapses that occurred. Two employees were fired after revelations that thousands may have been exposed to the diseases.

Nearly 3,800 former patients have been urged to get tested, and so far one person has tested positive for Hepatitis C. It is not yet clear if that patient contracted the disease at the center, or if it was a pre-existing condition. The health department says the risk of infection is low, noting the recommendation for testing was made out of "an abundance of caution."

State health officials have said anyone who had a procedure performed at the center from January to Sept. 7 this year may have been exposed.

The facility was shuttered for three weeks in September after the state Department of Health received a complaint.

The center's nursing director resigned a day before the facility was shuttered. Mark Manigan, a Roseland attorney representing the center, declined to say if that was related to the complaint and closure. He said the center's administrator is not expected to resign.

As part of a corrective plan implemented with the center's reopening, HealthPlus must conduct quarterly infection control audits and sterilization audits every six months.

One lawsuit has already been filed against the facility, and more are expected.


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