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N.J. Surgery Center Was Using Rusty Equipment: Report

Thousands of patients treated a New Jersey surgical center have been warned that they need to get tested for bloodborne disease that may have been contracted due to unsanitary conditions, after state health inspectors discovered rusty surgical equipment, soiled bed sheets and other problems at HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. 

On December 28, the New Jersey Department of Health released an inspection report (PDF) from September, which outlined the findings of an inspection that caused the center to be shut down for several days, and appear to have contributed to nearly 4,000 warning letters the center sent out last month, recommending former patients get tested for HIV, hepatitis and other bloodborne diseases.

Inspectors say they found rust spots on surgical equipment, and a policy in which nurses decided whether it was okay to use rusty surgical tools on patients.

Investigators also discovered unsanitary bed sheet practices in which sheets were soiled and not properly cleaned or changed routinely. Among other issues identified were surgeons and medical staff failing to cover their beards and facial hair during procedures, and one scenario where stretchers ready for use were observed with red, wet, blood-like stains.

“Findings during the investigation resulted in the Office of Program Compliance of the Department of Health ordering an immediate curtailment of services on September 7, 2018,” the report states.

The inspection resulted in the center being shut down until September 28, and resulted in staff changes and procedural changes as well.

On December 29, the facility issued an update addressing the report and indicating that it has had a third party reviewing its procedures since it reopened.

During the temporary closing of the facility, HealthPlus worked with local health officials to contract a third party to thoroughly clean the facility and replace surgery tools. The center also replaced several heads of staff that were being trained by state health officials on how to implement and follow proper sterilization procedures.

Last month, HealthPlus issued a warning letter to approximately 3,700 patients who underwent a procedure from January 1, 2018 through September 7, 2018, instructing them to undergo blood testing to confirm they have not contracted HIV, or hepatitis. The letter supplied instructions on how patients may receive testing by a third party at no expense.

To date, the facility is not aware of any confirmed cases of patients having contracted HIV, however, one of the first 186 patients to undergo blood testing has shown has shown a chronic hepatitis infection. It is unclear whether the case of hepatitis was present before the patient underwent a procedure at the HealthPlus facility, and  is still under investigation.

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