As if cancer weren’t bad enough, patients at Rose Cancer Center in Summit learned last week that they could have been exposed to viral infection at the clinic.
On Tuesday the Mississippi Department of Health sent letters to patients notifying them the clinic has been closed for “unsafe infection control practices.”
The letter said no cases of Hepatitis B or C or HIV have been reported from the unsafe practices but advised patients to undergo screenings at the local health department — and that includes anyone who has ever been a patient at the Summit clinic.
The situation came to light earlier this month when Rose Cancer Center patients turned up sick at Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center, state health officer Mary Currier told the Enterprise-Journal Saturday night.
“We know that there were 11 patients seen at the hospital in McComb with invasive bacterial infections who were patients from the clinic,” Currier said, referring to “bloodstream infection or pneumonia.”
The patients were treated July 9 to 18, and their conditions were reported to the health department. The clinic was closed on July 20.
“We investigated what was going on with the clinic and found infection control problems, and to make sure that didn’t continue to happen, we asked them to close,” Currier said.
She wasn’t sure of the exact problems but said clinics are supposed to make sure they don’t transmit viruses or bacteria, that medical items are used only once rather than on multiple patients, and that medications for one patient are not switched to another.
“This is out of a preponderance of caution,” she said. “Because there is a small possibility of this (infection), we want to find those folks in case anything like this happens so they can be treated appropriately. We don’t know when these infection control practices started, so we’re asking anyone who’s been seen at this clinic since it opened to get tested.”
She didn’t know how many people that is, but estimated it’s hundreds.
Dr. Meera Sachdeva opened the clinic at 807 Robb St. in Summit in 2008 after leaving the Mississippi Cancer Institute in McComb. The health department advisory only applies to people who were patients at the clinic after it opened in Summit.
The health department did not issue a news release about the Rose clinic closing or infection concerns. And a search on the department’s website did not turn up anything about the closing.
Currier said the department sent e-mails and faxes to area physicians.
“We’re asking them to help patients be assured they have continuing care,” she said.
Currier said the Rose clinic, which provided chemo-therapy treatment, is referring patients to University Medical Center in Jackson. However, a call to the clinic Saturday night received a recording saying that its voice mailbox is full.
The health department letter provided phone numbers for patients to call for more information.
“We just want to make sure all the patients get continuing care and, because there are infection control issues, to make sure they get tested,” Currier said.
Since the same type of improper practices can transmit both bacteria and viruses, health officials are concerned that viruses like hepatitis or HIV might have been transmitted.
“We’re asking people to come to (the health department) to be tested and we’re doing the testing free of charge,” Currier said.
She didn’t know if any disciplinary action against Sachdeva will result since that’s handled by the state Board of Medical Licensure.
“Our job is to make sure that if she does practice again, that her infection control practices are appropriate and safe, and that’s what we will work on,” Currier said.
The Enterprise-Journal was unable to contact Sachdeva on Saturday.
The closing did not appear to be connected to an incident Jan. 12 in which FBI agents served a search warrant at the clinic.