SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department released an inspection report into the investigation of Allen Thomashefsky, the Santa Barbara doctor accused of malpractice that lead to several patients contracting Hepatitis C.
Health officers made three visits to his office on 2320 Bath Street over a period of three months.
Thomashefsky specializes in "regenerative injection therapy" and sports medicine.
The report found that during an unannounced visit to Thomashefsky's medical practice by health officials, the physician did not wash his hands prior to an injection procedure. "When questioned, the physician stated that the sink was in the kitchen, he didn't want to walk back and forth, and believed his hands were clean," the report says.
He also reused syringes to inject patients with multi-use vials. Needles were changed.
According to the report, the physician did not wear gloves during the procedure either and when asked to wear gloves, he replied, "He has been practicing the same way for over 30 years and has never had a patient report any problems...The physician declined to wear gloves and used bare hands during the procedure."
Furthermore, the investigation revealed that the receptionist, who had no medical training, has a significant role in processing all specimens for re-injection. Syringes with patient identifying information were never labeled. "When asked how the receptionist ensures that patient syringes aren't inadvertently switched, she stated that she just keeps them straight," states the report.
Some corrections by Thomashefsky's practice had been implemented since the first announced visit by health officials. This included the use of a new syringe to enter a multi-dose vial, multi-dose vials were all dated, and a one-page infection control protocol was in the process of being written. However, infection control breaches continued according to the report:
- Lack of designation of clean/dirty areas in exam room #1, the centrifuge in exam room #2, and the kitchen.
- Lack of proper infection control training for the receptionist, including OSHA blood borne pathogen training.
- Lack of Vaccination against Hepatitis B for the receptionist.
- Neither the physician nor the receptionist wore gloves during procedure or handling of patient specimens.
- Potential for contamination of clean medical vials with patient's blood during procedure.
- Potential for contamination of clean patient specimens next to sink by "oily fat" being disposed of into the kitchen sink and splattering on patient specimens.
- Lack of labeling of syringes containing patient specimens.
- Improper disposal of biological hazardous waste.
We have obtained a full copy of the report. To read it, click here.
The California Medical Board continues to investigate this case, and could still take action against Thomashefsky. He is scheduled to go in front of the Medical Board later this week. A completed investigation report is expected in November-December 2015.
Thomashefsky corrected the problems. He was cleared to re-open his medical practice in Santa Barbara in September.
Public Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean said there were so many violations, it's hard to tell how his patients were infected with Hepatitis C.
"There were multiple infection control breaches. There were multiple potential ways the Hepatitis C virus could have been spread. Could have it been through reuse of a syringe? Maybe. Could it have been through contamination of clean and dirty areas? Maybe. I don't think we will ever know," Dean said.