Poor hand hygiene, other safety errors identified at NJ clinic where 40 were infected

A litany of infection prevention lapses at Osteo Relief Institute Jersey Shore in Wall Township, N.J., were identified in a March 24 report from the New Jersey Department of Health obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The pain clinic closed March 7 after 30 patients who received knee injections to treat osteoarthritis at the facility developed septic arthritis, a painful joint infection. The clinic reopened on March 21. According to the March 24 report, which was labeled preliminary, health officials identified a total of 40 clinic patients who came down with the infection. Twenty-nine of these patients required surgery to treat the infection.

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The preliminary report cites multiple infection prevention protocol errors. One physician told investigators she did not wash her hands between treating patients. Also, single-use vials of injectable drugs were reused as many as 50 times and syringes were thrown in the regular trash, not containers approved for medical waste. The report also says that while the staff reported using hand sanitizer while preparing medications, no sanitizer was found in the room where these activities occurred. The clinic reportedly treated 85 patients every day in just two exam rooms. The authors of the report said they could not determine which of the infractions resulted in the infections.

"The infection practices at Osteo Relief Institute represent a deviation from guidelines provided by the CDC and endorsed by professional associations," wrote the report's authors, according to the Inquirer.

Lawsuits were filed against the clinic on Monday. Joshua Kincannon, an attorney representing seven of the patients, said the high rate of turnover at the clinic suggests the average patient visit time was less than a quarter of an hour, according to the Inquirer.

"I think that this clinic put profits above patient safety," said Mr. Kincannon, according to the Inquirer. "I think that when you have a facility that is seeing 80-plus patients a day, it's not surprising at all that errors and safety breaches would occur."

An attorney representing the clinic did not respond to the Inquirer's request for comment on Tuesday.

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