Hundreds of spine patients still need testing for Hepatitis B - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

Hundreds of spine patients still need testing for Hepatitis B

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It all started in may of 2013 with three patients at Tri-county spinal Care Center in North Charleston testing positive for Hepatitis B. In the months to come 22 would test positive.

"All of these infections could have been prevented had they had the proper safety precautions in place," attorney Peter McGrath said.

Lawyers site a Department of Health and Environmental Control investigation done after the first reported cases. DHEC found quote "lapses in safe injection practices." They mainly surround what DHEC calls poor record keeping including records on:

*Staff injection training, observations

*Equipment

*Medication, medication supply

*Room cleaning

*Written infection control, blood borne pathogen exposure policies

"The investigation is now over and DHEC has withdrawn its earlier public health Order regarding Tri-County. There were some minor paperwork errors that were corrected and Tri-County has worked from day one to cooperate with DHEC and to ensure that its patients are safe," Richard Rikard, an attorney for the Spinal Care Center, said in a written statement.

Hundreds still need to be tested for the infection. There are 534 people identified as being at risk.165 have already been tested. That leaves 369 people still out there... needing to be tested.

News 2 has also obtained the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners records about one of the doctors at the facility; Dr. Richard Kellett.

Records show that he admitted to diverting a pain medication and was provided treatment for opioid abuse. He was also arrested and charged with diverting a Schedule II Controlled Substance at a hospital in Greenville.

"At the time of the initial investigation, the Board of Medical Examiners did temporarily suspend Dr. Richard Kellet's medical license without ahearing .Howeverr, after a full hearing and testimony before a hearing officer appointed by the Board of Medical Examiners, Dr. Kellet's suspension was lifted and his medical license reinstated," Rikard said.

It is still a factor that concerns attorneys for the victims.

"We've seen in other places and other facilities, than an employee or a doctor that was infected or may be a drug user may infect the equipment and may infect their patient because of the same equipment being used," McGrath said.

But again, DHEC has not released an origin for the infections.

"It should be noted that the lawyers who conducted the press conference have only filed one lawsuit and they failed to follow South Carolina law relating to filing a medical malpractice action and failed to attach an expert affidavit explaining what Tri-County did wrong, if anything, when the lawsuit was filed. A motion to dismiss that case is currently pending," Rikard added.

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