More than 3,000 patients at HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Amy Newman, NorthJersey
SADDLE BROOK — A Midland Avenue surgery center was closed in September by the New Jersey Department of Health after state surveyors found the facility using poor drug storage methods, an outdated infection control plan and unacceptable sterilization practices, according to a state report released Friday.
Two employees of the HealthPlus Surgery Center were fired and another resigned after the revelations, which may have exposed nearly 3,800 former patients to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. The center reopened Set. 28, seven days after submitting a corrective plan to the state, said Mark Manigan, a Roseland attorney representing the center.
“We suspect the problems were related to staff who are no longer at the facility,” Manigan said.
A pair of workers responsible for the cleaning and disinfecting of medical instruments used in surgery were let go for “performance-related issues,” Manigan said.
The center’s nursing director resigned Sept. 6 — just one day before the Health Department closed HealthPlus after investigating a complaint filed against it.
Manigan declined to say if the resignation was directly related to the complaint and subsequent closure.
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Anyone who stayed for a procedure at the surgery center from January to Sept. 7 may have been exposed, the Health Department has said. But no illnesses have been reported and the risk of infection is low, the department added. It has advised people be tested out of an “abundance of caution.”
Betty McCabe, the surgery center administrator, is not expected to resign, Manigan said.
The Health Department report, released afterNorthJersey.com and the USA TODAY Network New Jersey made a public records request, illuminated a variety of safety infractions committed by HealthPlus workers.
In one instance, a staff member failed to adequately wet and disinfect a stretcher that held a sheet containing a “wet red stain, approximately 2 inches in diameter,” the report said.
“Based on observation and staff interviews, it was determined that the facility failed to ensure that it adheres to transmission-based precautions,” the report stated.
State surveyors also found workers had crowded too many loose instruments into a small bag used to disinfect medical instruments, which “does not allow for the sterilant to come in contact with all surfaces of each instrument,” according to the report.
The report also found the facility improperly stored sterilized items, which jeopardized their cleanliness. Other sterilized instruments revealed rust-like stains, the report said.
All of the responsibilities fell under the nursing director, according to a corrective plan.
“We dealt with the issues,” Manigan said. “We have new processes and procedures in place and we have top experts on standby if needed.”
The Saddle Brook surgery center is licensed by the state and owned by Yan Moshe, a real estate multimillionaire, Manigan said.
Moshe, who also owns a surgery center in Hackensack that’s been cited for failing to meet safety regulations, bought Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in December 2017 despite having no experience running a hospital.
The Secaucus facility is now called Hudson Regional Hospital, and is where HealthPlus Surgery Center is referring patients to be tested.
State regulators have also investigated Excel Surgery Center, previously owned by Moshe, The Record reported. It was discovered that the center failed to report a car fire that happened in the parking lot and caused patients to be evacuated. Inspectors also found that proper procedures weren’t in place for using multi-dose vials of medication in the operating room. The center later filed correction plans with the state, and they were accepted.
A March investigation by The Record and NorthJersey.com revealed that some surgery centers in the Garden State have been found to lack supplies and resources to deal with emergencies.
Due to a quirk in state law, certain types of surgery centers with only one operating room haven’t been licensed by the state Department of Health and haven’t been required to report their patient-safety data. A bill introduced in New Jersey would require more than 150 centers that currently operate without state licenses to get them.
There is some evidence that the state’s unlicensed centers have had more safety problems, according to The Record’s investigation.
Anyone who needs to be tested because of the exposure in Saddle Brook can call 1-888-507-0578 to schedule an appointment.
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