NSW Health has called on former patients of a gastroenterologist with a practice in suburban Wollongong to get tested for HIV and hepatitis after nine people fell sick following endoscopic procedures.

Staff at Wollongong Hospital knew something was wrong when three patients from the clinic came into the hospital suffering bacterial infections in the space of a day.

When the Public Health Unit of the South Eastern Sydney and Illawarra Area Health Service investigated they found that anaesthetic given to the patients was contaminated with bacteria, but also that endoscopes used by the practice were not being sterilised properly.

Endoscopes are tube-like probes with a camera on the end that doctors use to examine the body’s internal cavities.

NSW Health fears that equipment used at Dr Zakaria Lakhany’s practice may have been improperly sterilised since it was opened 15 years ago, and is notifying more than 1000 of his former patients.

Lakhany also practised gastroenterology at Hurstville Private Hospital in Sydney but there is no suggestion that any of his former Hurstville patients have been put at risk.

The NSW Medical Board and the Health Care Complaints Commission are investigating Lakhany and another doctor at the practice who administered the anaesthetic.

“There is a low risk that some patients of this practice could have been exposed to infection,” a NSW Health spokesperson said.

“As a precaution, we are encouraging former patients to undergo screening for blood-borne infections. This advice is for people who have had endoscopy procedures, including gastroscopy and colonoscopy.”

So far no one is known to have contracted either of the viruses.

People who believe they may have been treated by Lakhany at his Warrawong practice can seek advice from the NSW Health Information Line which will assist them in arranging to be tested at a public health clinic.

ACON invites any member of the GLBT community who believes they may have been a patient of Lakhany and would like assistance in identifying a GLBT-friendly testing centre to get in touch.

info: Call NSW Health Information Line on 1800 451 600 or ACON on 1800 063 060.

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