Surgery center’s 3,700 patients ‘living in fear’ after HIV risk, lawsuit says
A Passaic County couple is seeking class-action status for a lawsuit against a surgery center that the state closed after it failed to follow safety regulations.
The state closed HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddle Brook and ordered them to inform 3,700 patients who had been treated at the center from January to Sept. 7 that they may have been exposed to HIV and hepatitis.
The letter encouraged the patients to seek testing for HIV, the incurable virus that causes AIDS, and hepatitis B and C, which can destroy the liver, "out of an abundance of caution" as a result of "lapses in infection control in sterilization/cleaning instruments and the injection of medications." The center says it is paying for the tests.
There have been no known infections. But Lauren and Julio Marrero, of Bloomingdale, filed a lawsuit Friday in Superior Court in Hackensack charging the facility with negligence.
The lawsuit says all former patients and their partners “now live in fear of their exposure to these potentially fatal viruses.” The Marrero lawsuit, filed by Michael J. Maggiano of the Fort Lee firm Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi, seeks to represent all 3,700 patients of the facility.
The facility, which has reopened, has blamed the lapses on two fired employees.
State inspectors said the facility was not properly disinfecting instruments, some of which appeared rusty. And they found a stretcher with a sheet that had a wet, red stain, according on NorthJersey.com, which obtained a copy of the state health report.
The lawsuit says the facility was negligent in maintaining proper sterilization and supervision of staff.
The complaint says the plaintiffs “have suffered and continue to suffer physical pain, emotional anguish, distress, fear, anxiety, humiliation, embarrassment and other physical and emotional injuries and damages (both economic and non-economic), as well as permanent disability, in the past, present, and future.” The complaint also makes a spousal claim of negligence and a claim for depriving the spouse of “society, consortium, companionship and services.”
The center's nursing director resigned a day before the facility was shuttered. Mark Manigan, a Roseland attorney representing the center, declined to say if that was related to the complaint and closure. He said the center's administrator is not expected to resign.
As part of a corrective plan implemented with the center's reopening, HealthPlus must conduct quarterly infection control audits and sterilization audits every six months.
Associated Press contributed to this report.