Monday, June 18 , 2018, 1:38 am | Fair 53º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Doctor Reportedly Working in Oregon During Santa Barbara Investigation

A doctor who has had his practice shut down in Santa Barbara while public health officials investigate whether his patients were infected with blood-borne illnesses from unsafe injection practices has continued to work at his Ashland, Ore., practice, according to several news sources.

Local television station KEYT as well as KDRV, a station out of Medford, Ore., have reported that Dr. Allen Thomashefsky's practice in Ashland was open for business, and that Oregon Public Health officials have said he has made changes to protect patient safety after an inspection was done at that location in March.

Thomashefsky made headlines earlier this month when the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department announced that an investigation found unsafe infection control practices that may have exposed patients to blood-borne viruses, including Hepatitis B and C as well as HIV.

The doctor's office at 2320 Bath St. #301, was closed on March 19, pending the completion of the investigation, which is being done by the county Public Health Department as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health.

The department became aware of the possible exposures while investigating a case of hepatitis C that may have been acquired from an injection at the local medical practice, Public Health officials said. 

"During this investigation, the medical office was observed not following standard/universal precautions to protect themselves and their patients," the department said in a statement.

Patients are being contacted individually and will be tested for hepatitis B, C or HIV, and anyone found to be infected will be linked to timely medical care, the department said.

Calls to Thomashefsky's Ashland office were not returned on Wednesday, and the doctor has not responded to requests for comment.

Jonathan Modie, spokesman for the Public Health Division of the Oregon Health Authority, said that the department began investigating Thomashefsky's clinic after it was contacted by the California Department of Public Health in early March.

Modie said they had also been working with Santa Barbara County's Public Health Department to share information on the progress of the respective investigations.

A walk-through of the Ashland clinic was conducted on March 26 in conjunction with the Jackson County Public Health Department.

"We did find some deficiencies. I'm not going to get into specifics because the investigation is still ongoing," he said. "(Thomashefsky) has cooperated with us and made changes to improve his infection-control and injection practices."

Modie said that his organization does not have the authority to shut down the practice, and that "we were certainly comfortable with the continued operation, as long as those changes were not only made, but kept in place.

"Our goal is to protect human health and to also make sure that places where people may be exposed to blood-borne pathogens clean up their act."

Modie said there are not any cases of blood-borne illness in Oregon tied to the Ashland or Santa Barbara Clinic.

The Oregon Medical Board licenses physicians such as Thomashefsky, Modie said, and would have ultimate authority over the practice.

Modie did confirm that his department had been in contact with the medical board about Thomashefsky.

In Santa Barbara, about 360 letters were sent to patients of Thomashefsky who received injection procedures between June 2014 and March 2015, according to Susan Klein-Rothschild of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

"Patients who received care from Dr. Thomashefsky prior to June of 2014 and back seven years, were sent letters in the past week," she said. "There were more than 1,000 letters sent this week."

It will take some time to complete laboratory testing on those patients, and after those initial test results are done, more testing may be needed.

"It would not be unexpected if some patients who received treatment from Dr. Thomashefsky had hepatitis prior to their treatment or contracted it from other sources," she said. "They may or may not know about the hepatitis diagnosis. This is part of the investigative process and why the process takes time."

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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