600 offered virus test after surgeon infected patients

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

More than 600 patients of a heart surgeon have been offered tests for hepatitis B after he was found to have accidentally infected two of his patients with the potentially fatal virus.

More than 600 patients of a heart surgeon have been offered tests for hepatitis B after he was found to have accidentally infected two of his patients with the potentially fatal virus.

Ajay Singh Geholt, 42, performed open-heart surgery on patients across Britain before DNA tests showed beyond any doubt that he had infected two patients at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where 128 patients have already been tested.

Yesterday Broad Green Cardiothoracic Centre in Liverpool, where Mr Geholt worked between July 1996 and September 1998, disclosed that it had written to more than 500 people - mostly from Merseyside, but including 81 from North Wales and 15 from the Isle of Man - to advise them to contact their GPs.

Mike Bone, the chief executive of the centre, said: "Because it is some years since the exposure, it is a very, very small chance that anybody could still be infected. Some people who catch the infection do not have any signs; that is why we are offering the blood test to see if anybody does have a continuing infection."

The letters arrived at the homes of former patients yesterday morning. After testing, patients will have to wait aboutone week for the results.

Mr Geholt, who trained in India, is now believed to be living in the United States and has stopped working as a surgeon. Throughout his time working for the NHS, managers were aware of his condition, but guidelines introduced by the Department of Health in 1993 meant he was not precluded from being a surgeon. Hospitals were informed of new and more stringent rules, prompted by Mr Geholt's case, via a circular released on 23 June this year.

Professor Tony Hart, consultant microbiologist at the Liverpool centre, said: "When the surgeon came to work here he told us he had hepatitis B but at the time was graded as a low-risk carrier. Our understanding of the disease has since changed and, under new Department of Health guidelines, we have undertaken this look-back procedure to identify those patients."

In May last year the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary tested 127 patients operated on by Mr Geholt between September 1998 and June 1999 after one of his patients was readmittedwith the virus. One other of the 127 patients was also found to have been infected.

In Hull, where the surgeon worked at the Castle Hill Hospital between 1 March 1990 and 31 January 1991, 139 patients have also been contacted. Dr Richard Charles, the centre's medical director, said: "The chance of any patient contracting hepatitis B during surgery is remote, but we want to do all we can to give patients reassurance and peace of mind."

Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are the most common forms of the virus in the UK. It is passed between humans through blood, and is fatal in about one case in 100.

Health officials said any patients of the hospitals who had not received a letter had already been eliminated from the list of potential carriers.

Comments