Patient speaks out after doctor infects him with Hepatitis

Thursday, November 15, 2007

One of the patients confirmed to have contracted Hepatitis C from a Long Island doctor accused of reusing needles is speaking out Thursday.

Health officials claim Dr. Harvey Finkelstein has put hundreds of patients at risk of being infected with HIV and Hepatitis.

Long Island reporter Emily Smith has the latest.

Raymond Bookstaver has filed a lawsuit against Dr. Finkelstein for negligence. But equally offensive, he says, is the amount of time it took the county and state to investigate this matter and alert hundreds of other patients who could be at risk.

Bookstaver can't work, can't go on vacation, can't even go out to dinner with his wife Lori and their two kids, because he has Hepatitis C. It is an incurable viral disease of the liver that acts up all the time.

"Diarrhea, throwing up, it's like having the flu," he said. "It doesn't pay to try to go out, go back and forth to the bathroom every time."

Bookstaver got Hepatitis C, according to the state health department, from his own doctor, a 52-year-old licensed anesthesiologist who he trusted in 2004 to help with severe back pain.

He was injured from a fall at work that his doctor said he could relieve with epidural treatment.

"He came across very caring at that time," Bookstaver said. "Little did I know how little he cared."

Bookstaver's Hepatitis diagnosis came from his family physician after seeing him for flu-like symptoms.

The hepatitis diagnosis triggered a Nassau County health investigation in 2004.

Investigators found two cases, and in both, they say the common thread was Dr. Finkelstein.

The case was then handed to the state, where it was determined that Dr. Finkelstein was reusing syringes to draw medicine for epidurals. Officials say even the smallest trace of blood or bodily fluids left behind can transfer a virus.

"My opinion is he wanted to save a couple of bucks a day," Bookstaver said. "Who knows how many of these he does?"

Dr. Finkelstein still practices out of the Plainview Pain Clinic, which we found packed with patients yesterday. Today, we were asked to leave. But a statement from a public relations professional representing him says:

"The Department of Health alleges that during its voluntary site visit to his office in 2005, he may have been observed using an improper multi-dose vial technique. The Department of Health alleged this technique could have led to cross-contamination. The technique was immediately changed by Dr. Finkelstein."

The State Department of Health says:

"The Board of Professional Medical Conduct began its investigation after the state health department and concluded Dr. Finkelstein has been using the correct procedure for two years. The state health department also says the doctor has agreed to be observed by them for the next three years."

But Bookstaver says how can this man continue to practice? And with more than two decades of medical experience, he had to have known better. And if he really didn't, why isn't he showing any kind of remorse?

"Let's face it, it wasn't like he misspelled somebody's name," Bookstaver said. "He infected me and someone else and who knows who else out there."

Nassau County legislator Roger Corbin contacted us today and says he's taking this case to the governor's office. Corbin says it is inexcusable that the state would allow Dr. Finkelstein to continue practicing and hopes to have his license revoked.

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