Spokane patients warned about needle use at clinic

SPOKANE — The Washington state Department of Health is notifying 415 patients of a plastic surgery clinic that they could have been infected when syringes and drug vials were used multiple times instead of being thrown away after one use.

Patients of the Aesthetic Plastic Surgical Center should consider blood tests for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, the department said Tuesday. The risk of infection is low, but the blood tests were recommended as a precaution for surgical patients of the Spokane clinic from 2006 to last April.

The clinic stopped the practices after an April inspection, the Health Department said.

The center disputed the department’s information in a statement Tuesday from Dr. Jeffrey Karp, who denied that he and his staff improperly used syringes or drug vials.

“Every syringe is discarded after each patient’s individual use,” he said. “Additionally, the clinic has never improperly used single or multi-dose drug vials. The vials are only either used on the same patient multiple times and then discarded or they are used on up to three patients, but each time the vial is entered only with a new, sterile syringe.”

A misunderstanding developed during an interview with a technician, Karp said.

“I take my responsibility to my patients very seriously and their safety and care is my absolute priority,” he said. “I can say emphatically, no patient has ever been exposed to a needle or syringe used on another patient.”

The Health Department acted in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said spokesman Tim Church in Olympia. The CDC’s “One and Only” campaign emphasizes that needles and syringes should only be used once and a vial should never be entered with a used needle or syringe.

Health officials said the Spokane clinic used vials on up to three patients.

“We found a vial that had been used being stored and they said they were going to use the rest of it on another patient,” Church said. “There should not have been a partially used vial of medication. It should have been used and thrown out.”

The violation of infection control standards puts patients at risk, he said.

The inspector also was told syringes were being used multiple times, apparently on the same patient, Church said. That’s unacceptable because blood could enter the syringe during an injection and then be introduced in a vial if it is reused, he said.

While the clinic agreed to changes its practices, it declined to notify patients so the state Health Department is sending letters to patients, officials said.

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