More than 3,000 patients at New Jersey surgery center possibly exposed to HIV, hepatitis

The patients may have been exposed to blood-borne illnesses due to "lapses in infection control in sterilization," according to the surgery center.

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By Kalhan Rosenblatt

An ambulatory surgery center in New Jersey may have exposed thousands of patients to HIV and hepatitis due to "lapses in infection control" and sterilization, the state's department of health said Monday.

More than 3,700 patients who had procedures at HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, may have been exposed to blood-borne illnesses such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, according to a statement from the center.

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The patients at risk were treated at the surgery center between Jan. 1 and Sept. 7, 2018.

The discovery came after an investigation of the surgery center by state department of health, though it was not immediately clear what prompted the investigation.

The department found that members of HealthPlus' staff were not following proper sterilization procedures "and failed to comply with other regulations regarding the dispensing and storage of medication, as well as infection control planning and procedures," according to a HealthPlus Surgery Center statement.

Currently, there have been no reports of infection or illness, according to the surgery center and the health department.

"Although the risk of infection is low, out of an abundance of caution, HEALTHPLUS and the New Jersey Department of Health recommend patients get blood tests for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV," the department said in a statement.

The state closed the surgery center on Sept. 7, and allowed it to reopen on Sept. 28. During that time, HealthPlus said it hired new staff members, improved infection control, conducted training for its new sterile-processing staff, and cleaned and repaired all medical equipment.

"The New Jersey Department of Health’s move to close the facility provided an opportunity to focus more intently on quality, safety and a consistent adherence to sound policies and procedures," the center's statement said. "As a result, we have made significant improvements to ensure our patients’ safety and good health."