January 3, 2019 / 7:40 PM / 2 months ago

Woman first to claim infection after surgery at New Jersey facility

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former patient at a New Jersey surgical facility that state health officials said may have exposed thousands of patients to HIV and other blood-borne pathogens has tested positive for hepatitis B, one of her lawyers said on Thursday.

The unidentified 58-year-old Brooklyn woman, a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed on Monday, is the first of 3,778 former patients at HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, known to claim she or he became infected because of faulty sterilization and medication practices at the facility.

The New Jersey Department of Health last week said patients who had procedures done at HealthPlus between Jan. 1 and Sept. 7 2018 may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. It urged them to get tested at “out of an abundance of caution.”

The legal action, brought in U.S. 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.

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.

Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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