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Hepatitis exposure in Westchester: Doctor focused on weight loss, hormone therapy

  • News Medical
  • September 12, 2017
  • Comments Off on Hepatitis exposure in Westchester: Doctor focused on weight loss, hormone therapy
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The exterior of the doctor’s office at 37 Moore Avenue in Mount Kisco Sept. 12, 2017. Frank Becerra Jr./lohud

Officials think hundreds of patients could have been exposed

Dr. Timothy Morley’s promises of seemingly miraculous weight-loss treatments are connected to several of the Westchester County doctor’s patients testing positive for hepatitis.

Newly reported details about injections and infusions of apparent weight-loss supplements and solutions emerged Tuesday as health officials investigated Dr. Timothy Morley, the doctor accused of potentially exposing patients to hepatitis and other diseases. His medical license was suspended pending a hearing next week on the incident.

Four people treated at Morley’s Tomorrow Medicine practice tested positive for the same strain of hepatitis C virus, prompting state Department of Health officials to issue the public warning that other patients might have been exposed to diseases. Morley has offices in White Plains and Mount Kisco.

WARNING: Westchester County doctor’s patients exposed to hepatitis

HEPATITIS C SYMPTOMS: What is the treatment?

Patients of Morley rushed to get tests as news of the potential outbreak of deadly and chronic diseases, including HIV and various hepatitis strains, spread rapidly through the community.

Hepatitis C is a virus-caused, blood-borne disease of the liver, and it is often referred to as a silent killer, lingering long before it causes damage to health.

More than 20 people sought testing by Tuesday afternoon, according to Brad Hutton, New York state’s deputy commissioner of public health. 

But investigators have struggled to determine how many more patients were potentially exposed.

“(Morley) wasn’t able to produce an adequate system of records to provide us with a list of patients,” Hutton said. “We think hundreds (may have been exposed) based on the current volume at the practice.”                                                                         

One Westchester woman getting tested Tuesday described Tomorrow Medicine as a typical medical office, calling the injections a white-glove service.

The woman, who requested anonymity to preserve her health care privacy noted office staff always handled her treatment, as opposed to Morley.

Morley didn’t respond to telephone messages and emails related to the potential exposure, and signs of his White Plains medical offices at 1133 Westchester Ave. had vanished by Tuesday.

Other health department accusations in the case focused on Tomorrow Medicine’s lack of infection control procedures required by state law.

Hutton described alleged safety violations at Morley’s medical offices as egregious.

“(Investigators found) a complete lack of hand hygiene and use of disinfectant before and after procedures,” Hutton said, adding the probe discovered medicine vials intended for a single-patient use that were possibly used for multiple patients or had expired.

Morley is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, which mixes traditional primary health care and holistic treatments focused on preventive care. He didn’t have any prior disciplinary actions related to his medical practice, state records show. 

Weight loss specialty

The Tomorrow Medicine website included seemingly breathless testimonials featuring before-and-after photos showing drastic weight loss. Men and women apparently quoted for the success stories told of losing up to 80 pounds in a matter of months.

Morley’s bio page opens with a quote on aging.

“People don’t grow old. They become old when they stop growing,” Morley said.

The website and a brochure obtained by The Journal News/lohud further details Morley’s apparently unique ability to treat a wide range of conditions by focusing on hormones.

“As Medical Director of Tomorrow Medicine, Dr. Timothy Morley devotes his practice to preventing and treating tomorrow’s medical problems today,” the website states. 

“’Hormones control everything,’ and through a program of in-depth testing, expert analysis, and medical counseling, Dr. Morley addresses the root causes of your symptoms including low energy, sleep disturbance, foggy thinking, moodiness, low libido, hot flashes and weight gain, among many others.”

Department of Health probe

The potential disease exposures happened at Morley’s medical offices in White Plains, which shared space with The Arena gym at 1133 Westchester Ave., and at his office at 37 Moore Ave. in Mount Kisco.

The medical offices have been open since December 2015, state records show, but investigators encouraged all of Morley’s patients to get tested for diseases.

Morley, who graduated from Ohio University, College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1997, had a previous medical practice in New York, called Advance Medicine of Mount Kisco, state records show.

“We’re actually erring on the side of public health,” Hutton said, adding anyone who underwent an infusion, injection or had blood drawn at Morley’s offices should get tested.

One issue cited by investigators is that Tomorrow Medicine used intravenous infusion and injections of supplements prepared at the practice site, state records show.

Other factors included an “Ozone solution” infusion and phlebotomy (or typical blood testing), as well as the preparation of medications, nutritionals and supplements for those infusions and injections.

Morley is accused of failing to follow infection control practices, such as staff and personal hand hygiene and medication preservation, preparation, handling and administration, according to charges filed by the state Board of Professional Medical Conduct.

The other charges included allegations that Morley’s staff performed procedures without the proper medical licensing, and general negligence linked to the potential disease exposure, state records show.

Morley also failed to produce records and information within one day as required during a public-health investigation into a potential outbreak, state records show.

Health officials say they are now in the process of notifying his patients to let them know they may have been exposed to hepatitis B or C or HIV and to seek testing.

Early symptoms for hepatitis C include fatigue, but it often goes unnoticed until more serious conditions emerge from the virus, which may result in liver dysfunction, cancer and ultimately death.  

Testing is available at no cost for patients through the county health department and appointments can be made by calling 914-995-7499.

Of the four patients who tested positive for hepatitis C, three are from Westchester County and one is from Dutchess County, officials said.

A hearing on the professional misconduct charges against Morley is scheduled before the State Board for Professional Medical Conduct on Sept. 19.

There is a drug, Sovaldi, that cures hepatitis C in 90 percent of patients, but it’s very expensive: A 12-week course of treatment costs $84,000, USA TODAY reported.

Disease prevention legislation

Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, D-New City, has introduced legislation seeking to limit the risk of future disease exposure.

The two pieces of legislation would increase penalties for reckless use of needles, and extend the period of time that patients who were exposed to diseases can file a lawsuit.

Hutton, the state’s deputy health commissioner, noted there are typically two cases per year in New York of needle-related disease exposures by health care professionals.

The proposed legislation seeks to allow for felony criminal charges against medical professionals who expose patients to communicable diseases through reckless use of needles, such as reusing needles.

There have been cases where misused needles exposed patients to deadly diseases, but medical professionals only had their license temporarily suspended, Zebrowski said.

“When folks visit the doctor, they are literally putting their life in that individual’s hands,” he said. “Medical professionals who choose to gamble with something that precious must face severe consequences. These reckless actions have the ability to change people’s lives forever.”

Another bill seeks to change the statute of limitation in these cases to two and a half years from when the person was notified of the potential exposure, rather than from the date of the incident.

The diseases may not show symptoms for years; leaving patients with no legal remedy, Zebrowski said.

Another gap in oversight of health care workers using needles includes the fact that doctors in private practice don’t face routine inspections by government health agencies, Hutton said.

By contrast, hospitals, diagnostic and treatment centers face regular safety inspections and reviews.

Responding to questions about the seemingly dangerous flaw in public-health laws and regulations, Hutton said, “That’s historically been the situation in New York state.”

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