First victim of New Jersey infection scandal: Woman tests positive for hepatitis B after almost 4,000 were exposed to HIV and other diseases in ‘dirty’ surgical site
- Unidentified 58-year-old woman from Brooklyn filed a lawsuit today
- 3,778 people were exposed to blood-borne pathogens at HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, between January 1 and September 7, 2018
- Those diseases include hepatitis B, which this woman allegedly contracted, and HIV
- Two employees have since been fired after a state inspection revealed poor sterilization practices
- Inspectors found bloody sheets, poor drug storage methods, an outdated infection control plan, and unacceptable sterilization practices
A 58-year-old woman has tested positive for hepatitis B after being unwittingly exposed to the virus at a surgical facility in New Jersey.
The unidentified patient is the first to come forward and file a claim against the center, which says up to 3,778 people may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne pathogens.
Her claim comes a week after health officials said sterilization issues plagued HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, between January 1 and September 7, 2018.
According to a state report, poor drug storage methods, an outdated infection control plan and unacceptable sterilization practices were rife.
Filing a claim in her home borough of Brooklyn today, the woman’s lawyers accuses HealthPlus of ‘recklessly and negligently’ failing to follow sterilization and other procedures.
Patients at a surgical center in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, may have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV
The lawsuit, which seeks class action status, asks for unspecified damages.
The New Jersey Department of Health last week sent letters to almost 4,000 patients urging them to get tested at ‘out of an abundance of caution.’
One patient, Kristin Debenedictis, told Pix 11: ‘I was just so upset. Nobody wants to get news like that. HIV is, like, extremely scary. My friend, you know, he died of AIDS. It’s horrible.’
‘I needed to be checked for HIV and hepatitis,’ the letter said. The letterhead showed that it was from HealthPlus Surgery.
‘I started crying. I was just so upset. Nobody wants to get news like that.’
Two employees have since been fired, officials said.
And now, there’s a lawsuit – likely the first of many.
The legal action, brought in US district court in Brooklyn, accuses HealthPlus of ‘recklessly and negligently’ failing to follow sterilization and other procedures. The lawsuit, which seeks class action status, asks for unspecified damages.
Patients who underwent procedures at HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook, NJ, were sent letters urging them to be checked
Attorney Marc Held, whose firm joined with the woman’s firm in filing the lawsuit, said in an email that she received her positive test results earlier this week, after having had shoulder surgery at HealthPlus last year.
HealthPlus attorney Mark Manigan said state health officials still must conduct a ‘comprehensive analysis’ to determine, among other things, if the positive test result reflects a pre-existing condition.
‘To our knowledge, no infection has been linked to exposure at HealthPlus and definitive results may be weeks or months away,’ Manigan said in an emailed statement.
HealthPlus notified the patients last month that ‘lapses in infection control in sterilization/cleaning instruments and the injection of medications’ may have exposed them to the diseases, and offered to reimburse them for the cost of testing.
Another former patient filed a lawsuit in a New Jersey state court last Friday alleging that HealthPlus engaged in ‘wanton misconduct — on a continuing basis’ by exposing patients to dangerous pathogens.