Lawsuit Against Oklahoma Hospital, Doctor Alleges Negligence After More Than 350 Patients Potentially Exposed to Hepatitis C
Norman, Okla., resident Bill Lamb on Tuesday filed suit against Norman Regional Hospital, Dr. Jerry Lewis -- a pain management specialist -- and 10 unnamed health workers alleging that Lamb and other patients at a pain management clinic were exposed to hepatitis C as a result of "negligence and breaches in standards of care" at the hospital's clinic, the Associated Press reports. The suit, which requests compensation for "mental pain and suffering, physical pain and suffering, expenses, loss of earnings and temporary and permanent disability," follows the hospital's announcement last week that six patients at the pain management clinic tested positive for the virus. Lamb's attorneys are seeking to certify the case as part of a class action lawsuit on behalf of all the individuals who were potentially exposed to the virus (Associated Press, 9/11). The Oklahoma Board of Nursing earlier this week launched an investigation to determine whether a health worker at the clinic transmitted hepatitis C to patients through contaminated needles. The board is investigating whether a certified registered nurse anesthetist used "sloppy infectious disease controls" leading to the repeated contamination of either syringes, intravenous lines or pain medications. Kim Glazier, executive director of the board, said that if "clear and convincing evidence" indicates that improper controls were used, a formal complaint will be filed against the worker. Approximately 350 patients seen at the clinic between Dec. 31 and Aug. 19 still need to be tested for the virus. Although the Oklahoman was unable to verify the name of the nurse anesthetist under investigation, state epidemiologist Dr. Mike Crutcher said that the worker is no longer practicing (Killackey, Daily Oklahoman, 9/10). Lewis denied the charges, and hospital attorney Glen Huff said it was "unfortunate" that the hepatitis C infections among clinic patients have "sparked a race to the courthouse on the part of lawyers trying to get the cases on file even before the facts are known" (Associated Press, 9/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.