SANTA BARBARA (CN) - Four patients filed separate lawsuits against a Santa Barbara doctor, claiming his dirty needles and syringes and poor hygiene may have exposed them to blood-borne diseases, including hepatitis and HIV.
All the complaints cite an April 8, 2015 statement in which the Santa Barbara County Health Department said it was investigating Dr. Allen J. Thomashefsky's medical clinic "for blood-borne virus exposure" and "inadequate infection controls."
The plaintiffs claim dirty syringes and needles were mixed together at the clinic, that the doctor wiped his bloody hands on his pants between patients, and that the county told all of Thomashefsky's patients "to undergo blood tests to determine whether or not she was infected with infectious diseases," including hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
None of the four plaintiffs who sued Thomashefsky on Feb. 11 in Superior Court says that they have contracted a disease, but all seek damages for lost earnings, hospital costs and negligence.
The patients say they were receiving prolotherapy - proliferation therapy - which involves a series of injections to produce inflammation in injured tissue, stimulating the healing process. It is especially used for damaged ligaments and tendons.
Health inspectors found a number of problems in a visit to the clinic on Feb. 23, 2015, according to the complaints: multiple violations of infection controls, with clean syringes, needles, vials and swabs mixed in with dirty ones; no logs of when things were cleaned and no written policy on when and how to clean; a general lack of hygiene everywhere; and the doctor's failure to use gloves. Nor was it clear whether the refrigerator in the kitchen was used strictly for medication or for food as well.
A second inspection three weeks later found even more problems and the practice was closed down. According to that report, a receptionist with no medical or infection control training was processing specimens, and prepared injections sat next to a dirty sink that the doctor used to clean blood off his hands.
The report also describes a treatment in which the doctor, using his bare hands, made about 30 injections into a patient's posterior lumbar region until "the blood on the patient's back trickled onto the exam table. ... the physician used a 4x4 cotton swab to wipe the patient's blood ... tossed the cotton swab onto the counter" and "wiped his hands on his pants." Throughout the procedure, there was no designated clean/dirty area and the clean and dirty items were commingled.
The Health Department said in June 2015 that it had analyzed test results of 291 of Thomashefsky's patients and concluded that at least five had contracted hepatitis C due to his negligence and that all of his patients should be tested for hepatitis B and C, and HIV.
Representatives from the health department, citing an overload of work due to the Zika virus, were not available to comment this week.
NewsChannel 3 in Ashland, Ore. reported that Thomashefsky had an office in Oregon and continued to work after his California office was closed. Soon after the story broke, the Oregon Medical Board issued an order to restrict his practice in that state and it was soon closed.
All four plaintiffs in superior Court are represented by Ryan Harris with Harris Personal Injury Lawyers, who did not respond to requests for comment.
Calls to the Santa Barbara and Ashland office phone numbers listed on Thomashefsky's website did not go through and he could not be reached for comment.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.