A Pennsylvania doctor had his medical license temporarily suspended earlier this year after state inspectors reported finding problems that they said could result in the spread of serious diseases like hepatitis and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Just four days later, however, the physician's medical license was restored and the suspension was "vacated," which means that it no longer appears on the state's online database of medical providers' license status and disciplinary history. The database is intended in part to help make informed decisions when choosing a health care provider, potentially reducing their exposure to incidences of medical malpractice.
The Pennsylvania board of medicine reportedly issued the suspension after an inspection allegedly revealed that surgical instruments were being used on multiple patients without being sterilized in between. The inspectors also reported that syringes were being reused in a manner that could have caused multi-use vials of anesthetic to become contaminated, thus putting patients at risk of exposure to blood-borne pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis.
The inspector's report went on to say that the physician had failed to properly test an on-site sterilization device known as an autoclave, which means that there was no way to be certain that surgical instruments were safe for re-use even after going through the sterilization process.
According to news reports, an unspecified number of patients who underwent surgical procedures at the clinic have been advised to undergo testing for hepatitis and HIV. It remains to be seen whether anyone has been infected as a result of the alleged safety violations. However, Pennsylvania law provides that physicians can be held liable when negligent or substandard care causes harm to patients. Thus, in the event that those patients contracted a blood-borne illness or suffered other harm as a result of the doctor's conduct, they could be entitled to monetary damages.
Source: The Patriot-News, "Patients advised to get tested for hepatitis, HIV, but midstate cosmetic surgeon's online record erased," David Wenner, Aug. 12, 2014