No risk at Hudson Regional?

Hospital officials will be testing patients from Saddlebrook surgical center

Hudson Regional hospital will test patients from the Saddlebrook surgical facility
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Hudson Regional hospital will test patients from the Saddlebrook surgical facility

Officials at Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus say their patients do not need to be concerned about exposure to life-threatening viruses that a state report claims may have happened at the HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook.

Both facilities are owned by Yan Moshe, who owns two surgery centers in New Jersey as well as Hudson Regional. A spokesperson said the hospital is a separate operation run independently from the surgery centers.

“Even though they have common ownership, Hudson Regional is completely independent of the surgery center,” said Ron Simoncini of Secaucus-based Axiom, a public relations firm employed by the hospital.

A report issued by the state Department of Health in December said patients who were treated at HealthPlus in Saddle Brook from Jan. 1 to Sept. 7, 2018 when the state shut down the center may have been exposed to HIV and other diseases during surgery.

The NJ Department of Health’s recent investigation found that HealthPlus staff often failed to properly sterilize surgical tools between uses or neglected infection control procedures, raising the risk that patients could have gotten blood borne infections.

Immediate testing is critical

“Blood borne infections like HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C often do not produce visible symptoms. It is therefore critical for any individuals who may have been exposed to get tested immediately,” said Kumar Dharmarajan, MD and Chief Scientific Officer, Clover Health, an expert on infectious diseases. “If untreated, these infections can lead to chronic health problems and can spread to others. If you or someone you know may have been exposed to one of these infections, testing is easy with a simple blood test at your physician’s office.”

Hospitals are better regulated that many surgical centers, Simoncini said.

If fact, according to state officials, surgery centers with only one operating room are not required to be licensed by the state, while hospitals must be.

Surgery Centers also have not been required in the past to report on patient-safety data, a strict requirement hospitals must comply with.

The state report said that 3,778 patients may have been exposed, and this has resulted in the termination of two workers at the center and the resignation of a third.

Although state officials said the risk is extremely low, the Department of Health report found numerous other violations including unaccounted for opioid drugs.

The hospital and NJ Department of Health are recommending patients treated during that window of time get blood tests for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.

One patient, according to the report, did contract hepatitis B, but it is unclear if it is related to this exposure.

At least, one lawsuit has been filed, with the potential to become a class action suit if more exposed patients join in.

Simoncini said a letter has gone out to all of the patients that the state claims may have been exposed. Hudson Regional will test them using Labcorp, a nationally recognized diagnostics firm.

“Patients will be transported from their homes to the hospital,” Simoncini said.

He noted that the state said the risk of contracting any of these diseases is extremely low; the testing is being done as “an abundance of caution.”

Dharmarajan said it is critical for people to be tested.

“Getting tested is critical since all three diseases often cause no symptoms at first, and acute symptoms can resemble a flu or cold,” Dharmarajan said. “Both hepatitis B and C can become chronic silent infections, while HIV infection is only manageable with lifelong antiviral therapy. Untreated, chronic hepatitis B and C infection can also lead to liver damage/failure and cancer.”

Hospital’s reputation had been questionable

This comes at a tough time for Hudson Regional, which Moshe, who also owns Excel Surgery Center in Hackensack, purchased in late 2017.

Under its previous name, Meadowlands Hospital, the facility had a questionable reputation which new management, under the name Hudson Regional, hoped to dispel.

At the time of purchase, Moshe promised to maintain the 200-bed hospital and improve its level of service.

Dr. Nizar Kifaieh, who took over as the hospital’s chief executive officer last June, said the hospital hoped to reach out into the community and rebuild trust it has lost under previous ownership.

“Our focus is to become a leading community hospital,” Kifaieh said during an interview earlier this year.

To comment on this story on-line, go to our website, www.hudsonreporter.com. Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com