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Public Health Releases Report on Santa Barbara Doctor Linked to Hepatitis C Cases

Unsafe injection procedures observed at Dr. Allen Thomashefsky's office prompted the Public Health Department to shut it down in March

Public Health officials visited Dr. Allen Thomashefsky’s medical office three times during the investigation into acute Hepatitis C cases linked to his practice. Click to view larger
Public Health officials visited Dr. Allen Thomashefsky’s medical office three times during the investigation into acute Hepatitis C cases linked to his practice.  (Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)

During its investigation of Dr. Allen Thomashefsky, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department discovered the physician never wore gloves, changed syringes between shots or kept separated clean and dirty areas in his medical practice.

The Santa Barbara physician’s office is responsible for the transmission of Hepatitis C to multiple patients, a conclusion reached after genetic testing found five patients who visited the office on the same day contracted new cases of the virus that are significantly genetically related, according to Public Health officials.

There is a long list of infection-control violations in the county’s inspection report – so many that it’s impossible to tell which ones specifically infected patients with the hepatitis C virus, Public Health spokeswoman Susan Klein-Rothschild said.

Thomashefsky’s office at 2320 Bath St. specializes in “regenerative injection therapy” and was closed by the county in March.

During an unannounced inspection, Public Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean observed so many violations she ordered the office closed on the spot. She has since rescinded the order.

The county’s inspection report was released Tuesday and details the three Public Health visits to the physician’s office, two before and one after the closure order.

Dr. Allen Thomashefsky Click to view larger
Dr. Allen Thomashefsky (Courtesy photo)

Scroll down to read the full report.

The county’s investigation report should be finished by the end of the year, Klein-Rothschild said.

The Medical Board of California has no actions against Thomashefsky and doesn’t discuss ongoing investigations, public affairs manager Cassandra Hockenson said.

“…But I can assure you we take these things very seriously and will take the appropriate action regarding California licensure,” she wrote in an email.

Thomashefsky’s Oregon license has been restricted so he can’t give injections at his Ashland office, as Noozhawk has previously reported.

The office’s kitchen sink was a prep area for patient injections and the place where biological hazardous waste was disposed. Click to view larger
The office’s kitchen sink was a prep area for patient injections and the place where biological hazardous waste was disposed.  (Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)

Public Health officials visited the office as part of an investigation into a hepatitis C case, and found clean and dirty items commingled on counters and other surfaces, including vials, syringes and cotton swabs.

Thomashefsky, the only physician associated with the office, told officials he has never worn gloves and there is no sink for hand washing in the patient exam room.

He also reused syringes to inject patients with multi-use vials, though he changed the needles.

His receptionist told authorities she didn’t do medical procedures, but assisted the physician and cleaned. She prepared specimens for the centrifuge and had no medical or infection-control training. She never wore gloves either.

Both people disposed of biological hazardous waste in the kitchen sink, which potentially could have splattered onto clean vials and syringes set out for the next patient next to the sink, according to the report.

A locked “storage room” in the office was discovered to be a personal bedroom for Dr. Allen Thomashefsky while he lived and worked in Santa Barbara, according to the county’s inspection report. Click to view larger
A locked “storage room” in the office was discovered to be a personal bedroom for Dr. Allen Thomashefsky while he lived and worked in Santa Barbara, according to the county’s inspection report.  (Santa Barbara County Public Health Department photo)

During an observed procedure, Public Health officials saw Thomashefsky clean a patient’s lower back with an alcohol swab and then, with bare hands, apply about 30 injections to the area.

A small amount of blood trickled onto the exam table and Thomashefsky, still without wearing gloves, used a cotton swab to wipe it up and tossed the soiled swab onto the counter. He then wiped his hands on his pants, according to the inspection report.

 “After using his bare hands and a swab to wipe the patient’s blood, the physician was observed handling multiple vials, the soiled 4x4 swab, and the patient without wearing gloves or washing his hands,” according to the report.

During the second visit, the physician did start using new syringes for each injection.

“The physician explained he has always practiced the same way, and felt that PHD’s request to use a different syringe each time re-entering a medication being used for multi-dose purposes was overkill.”

During an April inspection, Public Health inspectors found that a “locked storage closet” was in fact a personal bedroom for Thomashefsky that he used while living in Santa Barbara.

There was a double bed, hanging clothing, desk and personal items, according to the report.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli 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.

Santa Barbara County Public Health Inspection Report

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