New Details in HIV, Hepatitis Scare at NJ Surgery Center

Two sterilization employees at the center have been fired

The New Jersey surgery center that's recently alerted nearly 4,000 patients about a potential exposure to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C says it's fired two employees as a result of the health scare as a new report details disturbing safety lapses there. 

Two sterilization employees who were responsible for cleaning medical instruments used in surgery at HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook were fired for "performance-related issues," the center said. The center's nursing director also resigned Sept. 6. 

An inspection report from the New Jersey state health department has shed light on the scope of infection risk at the center, which forced the facility to briefly shut down in September. 

According to the report, HealthPlus suffered from a troubling list of infection control lapses, including sterile instruments found  with debris and hinges rusty and discolored; a patient stretcher with a wet red stain, which staff failed to thoroughly disinfect; and an infection control plan that was dated 2010 and contained the name of a different facility.

Since HealthPlus reopened in late September, it has been under weekly monitoring by the state and has had no further issues, a representative for the facility said. 

HealthPlus also says that it will respond to the findings of the state health department's investigation at a news conference on Saturday morning. 

Officials said this week that 3,778 patients who had procedures done at the HealthPlus Surgery Center between January 2018 and Sept. 7, 2018 may have been exposed. Those patients were urged to get their blood tested. 

Surgery center administrator Betty McCabe said the exposure was due to "deficiencies in infection control" involving the cleaning of instruments and injection of medications.

The health department says the risk of infection is low, and no illnesses have been reported. The department called it "an abundance of caution" to suggest that people be tested.

McCabe says the center is offering to pay medical costs associated with testing.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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