Hepatitis outbreak blamed on doctor

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A DOCTOR has been condemned for causing Europe's largest outbreak of hepatitis B at his unhygienic clinic in north London where he practised an obscure form of acupuncture which involved re-injecting people with their own blood.

A report by Barnet Health Authority says 60 people from all over Britain were infected with the potentially deadly virus after undergoing treatment at the Finchley Alternative Medical Centre.

However, Dr Madhusadan Shivadikar, who owns the clinic and who has been suspended as a GP by the British Medical Association, is unrepentant. He denies infecting the people and intends to continue with the technique called autohaemotherapy. According to the report, the treatment involved extracting a patient's blood, mixing it with a saline solution and re-injecting it into them.

Although Dr Shivadikar, 69, used sterile needles, he used a communal syringe and re-used the same bottle of saline on up to 15 different patients. It was this that the authority believes caused the outbreak.

The report follows a 16-month investigation into Dr Shivadikar's practice - set up in a suburban house 15 years ago.

Health authority inspectors found there was no infection control policy. Dr Shivadikar had made no arrangements for blood spillages or splashes - some of his medical notes were so stained with blood inspectors did not want to touch them.

They found that he did not wear gloves or a gown to treat his patients and that a cleaner washed the medical utensils with soap and water. No chemical disinfectants were used and the centre did not have any sterilisation equipment.

Dr Shivadikar used a laser to stimulate acupuncture points in children without providing eye protection. And in his consulting room, clinical waste was thrown into an open rubbish bin and was disposed of with the general household waste.

It became apparent duringthe investigation that Dr Shivadikar's daughter - who was not a qualified GP - also carried out autohaemotherapy.

The treatment, which Dr Shivadikar learnt in Germany, is meant to treat allergies. Being a GP, he did not need a licence, unlike most acupuncturists, who need to be registered.

Dr Stephen Farrow, the authority's director of public health, said: "The incident team felt that this procedure posed a high risk of cross- contamination and the multi-dose bottle was the most likely vehicle of transmission of the infection."

Despite the damning evidence, Dr Shivadikar is still open for business and determined to resume autohaemotherapy. He said: "I do not believe all those people got hepatitis from here. The equipment would not have got contaminated and I do not know how it could happen. Lots of people are carriers already.

"I have not practised it since the outbreak but as soon as the investigations are all over I will practise it again. It helps people. When patients want something I will give it to them and no one can stop me."

The Government is considering making all alternative and private medical practitioners register with a regulatory body.