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Santa Barbara Doctor Surrenders Medical Licenses After Hepatitis C Outbreak

The Santa Barbara doctor whose office was responsible for transmitting Hepatitis C to at least four patients has surrendered his licenses to practice medicine in California and Oregon.

Dr. Allen Thomashefsky specialized in regenerative injection therapy, which is treatment for chronic pain caused by unhealed injuries around cartilage, joints and muscles.

His practice at 2320 Bath St., Suite 301, was investigated by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and then the Medical Board of California, which accused him of gross negligence, employing an unlicensed person to practice medicine, and incompetence.

“He was incompetent by reusing syringes, putting patients at risk of infectious material, including Hepatitis C virus infection in multiple patients, failing to use standard precautions when injecting patients, providing procedural sedation in the treatment of (eight) patients, and treatment of patient F.S.’s thyroid disease,” according to the Medical Board of California.

Thomashefsky surrendered his California license, effective in March, and agreed to permanently “retire” his Oregon medical license.

He was represented by Long Beach attorney Jack Reinholtz for the California proceedings.

The Oregon Medical Board found that Thomashefsky engaged in unprofessional or dishonorable conduct and committed gross or repeated acts of negligence. They assessed a $2,500 civil penalty and permanently retired his medical license while he is under investigation.

Oregon had limited his license to stop him from injecting patients during the Hepatitis C investigation, and in 2006 cited him for using human growth hormones for non-FDA-approved purposes.

According to the Medical Board of California’s accusation documents, Thomashefsky did not use standard precautions when he injected patients, since the investigations determined he didn’t wash his hands or use gloves, and didn’t keep separate dirty and clean areas in his patient room.

Dr. Allen Thomashefsky Click to view larger
Dr. Allen Thomashefsky

The Medical Board discovered Thomashefsky administered intravenous sedation to multiple patients, but he wasn’t licensed or certified to do so.

He also prescribed thyroid hormone therapy for a patient with normal levels – despite the fact prescribing that to someone who doesn’t need it can have adverse cardiac effects and negative effects on bone mineral density, according to the board.

His daughter, identified only as S.L. in the Medical Board documents, was his receptionist and assistant who prepared all patient specimens. She had no infection-control training, including OSHA bloodborne pathogen training, and didn’t use gloves.

Thomashefsky also said he reused syringes when using multi-dose vials.

Five of his patients with new cases of Hepatitis C had procedures at his office on Sept. 4, 2014.

“The problem with those four patients that got Hepatitis was the reuse of the syringe that infected the bottle,” Thomashefsky told the Medical Board. “When that bottle of lidocaine, which was a multi-dose bottle, was done, then no one else got Hepatitis, but those four patients got Hepatitis, which is really bad.”

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department visited Thomashefsky’s office during its investigation into the Hepatitis C outbreak and briefly shut it down after observing bad infection-control practices.

County Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean had no comment on Thomashefsky surrendering his license, but said the Public Health Department was able to uncover and stop the Hepatitis C outbreak, in partnership with the state Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“Hepatitis C is a serious disease with lifelong consequences, and blood-borne transmission in the health-care setting can be prevented with correct and consistent use of safe injection practices,” she said in an email. 

The CDC launched a campaign on safe injection practices (“One needle, one syringe, only one time”) around the same time as the Santa Barbara Hepatitis C outbreak, Dean noted.

California and several other states adopted the campaign, and they make a point of mentioning the misconception among some health care workers that a syringe can be reused if a needle is changed, or that single-dose vials can be used for multiple patients.

“Once a syringe and needle are used, both are contaminated,” the website says.

Several patients filed civil lawsuits against Thomashefsky and many of them have reached settlements, according to Santa Barbara County Superior Court documents. 

It is unclear whether there are any criminal investigations underway, but no charges have been filed against Thomashefsky in Santa Barbara County, state or federal court.

Multiple requests for comment from the California Attorney General's Office were not returned as of Friday, and a spokesman from the federal Attorney General's Office said it is a Justice Department policy not to comment on the existence on an investigation. 

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.

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