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Possible unsafe practices found at W.Va. clinic

By The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Health officials in Ohio and West Virginia on Monday advised patients of a pain management clinic in the Northern Panhandle to be tested for blood-borne infectious diseases after an investigation found potentially unsafe injection practices.

The investigation by West Virginia health officials found that, prior to November 2013, needles and syringes were reused at Valley Pain Management to administer pain medications and saline solutions, and the same pain medication vial was used for more than one patient, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the Ohio Department of Health said in separate news releases.

These injection practices potentially exposed patients to diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, the agencies said.

McMechen is located in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle across the Ohio River from Ohio.

“Our primary responsibility in public health is to protect the public. While we cannot determine if these procedures caused any illnesses, it is possible this practice may have exposed Valley Pain Management patients to infections,” Dr. Letitia Tierney, West Virginia Bureau for Public Health commissioner and state health officer, said in the DHHR’s release.

The DHHR and the Ohio department advised patients to be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV if they had an injection procedure between the clinic’s 2010 opening and Nov. 1, 2013.

Both agencies said the clinic has not cooperated with their requests for a patient list, which they are seeking so patients can be notified of their potential risk of exposure and testing options.

The clinic did not immediately return a telephone message Monday.

The DHHR said it issued an administrative subpoena to obtain the patient list and “is prepared to institute legal action if the clinic does not comply with subpoena.” The Ohio department said it is reviewing potential legal options.

“Meanwhile, ODH is working with the Ohio Department of Medicaid and the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation to identify their consumers who have been Valley Pain Management patients,” the Ohio department said.

In West Virginia, testing is available at local health departments in Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties.

The Ohio department recommends that the clinic’s Ohio patients talk to their primary care providers about arranging testing, said Maureen Murphy-Weiss, the department’s program manager of viral hepatitis prevention.

“If someone has been a Valley Pain Management patient and received injections, it does not mean that he or she has contracted an infectious disease. It is impossible to predict which patients were potentially exposed to infectious diseases,” Murphy-Weiss said in the release.

“Some patients could have these serious diseases without any symptoms, and the sooner they are detected, the quicker treatment can begin,” she said.

Ohio residents who do not have health insurance can obtain instructions about arranging testing by calling the Ohio department at 844-593-5184.

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