State files complaints against doctor involved in Brandon hepatitis outbreak

The state has filed a pair of administrative complaints against a doctor for her role in a hepatitis C outbreak that occurred at a holistic medical clinic in Brandon.

The complaints allege that Dr. Carol Roberts failed to institute, monitor and use acceptable infection control practices at Wellness Works, 1209 Lakeside Drive, where 11 patients tested positive for hepatitis C in 2009.

The complaints say Roberts, as the clinic's medical director, was responsible for ensuring patients were provided appropriate medical care under sanitary conditions. They add that she committed medical malpractice for failing "to meet the prevailing standard of care."

The state is requesting that the Board of Medicine impose penalties that could include a reprimand, fine, probation or even the revocation or suspension of Roberts' license.

Roberts, 65, said Thursday that she could not discuss the complaints because they are an ongoing legal issue. She said she wasn't surprised by the state's action.

"The Board of Health has to do what it has to do," she said. "This is not settled. We have to go through a legal process."

The complaints, both of which were filed June 23, involved intravenous therapies provided to two of the patients who tested positive for hepatitis C.

One involved a patient, identified as M.F., who underwent an IV vitamin treatment on April 22, 2009. The other involved a patient, identified as W.G., who underwent 10 chelation IV treatments between April 15 and June 2, 2009. Chelation uses IV medications to grab heavy metals and minerals out of the blood and remove them from the body.

In both cases, the patients later became sick and tested positive for hepatitis C, a contagious liver disease that can last from a few weeks to a lifetime and can cause serious damage.

The complaints do not mention the current health of patients M.F. and W.G.

On July 14, 2009, Roberts contacted public health officials about the infections, and an investigation was conducted. More than 100 patients who underwent IV treatments at the clinic in the past year were contacted and tested for hepatitis C. In all, 11 tested positive.

The inquiry found that the transmission was caused by the "failure of clinic staff to follow standard procedures for preparing and administering IV therapy."

Roberts said the clinic took all of the corrective actions required by the Health Department. "We always cooperated with them," she said. "We were the ones that reported it. It's one of those things."

Roberts said the sagging economy and the fallout from the outbreak are forcing her to close the clinic around the end of the month. The clinic's other doctors have left, she said.

"I've served this community for many years. It's the only black mark on my reputation," she said. "I'm proud of what I've done here."

She said she plans to work at a holistic clinic in Naples.

Richard Martin can be reached at rmartin@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3322.

State files complaints against doctor involved in Brandon hepatitis outbreak 07/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 14, 2011 11:32pm]

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