More than 1,000 people were treated at an Abbotsford acupuncutre clinic that was closed last week for failing to meet “infection prevention and control standards” and poses a health hazard to clients.
Fraser Health is now trying to contact the patients who received acupuncture services at the Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Centre, located at #11 – 2168 McCallum Rd., and urging them to be tested for HIV and hepatitis B and C.
Fraser Health medical health officer Michelle Muriti said a complaint from the community prompted an inspection that turned up a range of concerns, including irregularly changed sheets, a lack of a regular cleaning schedule and, most concerning, the improper storage of needles.
The centre is owned and operated by Duan (Deborah) Hu.
A handwritten note on the door of the clinic on Thursday morning stated, “The office is closed due to doctor’s family emergency … Dr. Hu will return ASAP.”
Another sign on the door lists several communicable illnesses and asks clients to contact Hu if they have, or have been exposed to, any of them so she can book a “special appointment.”
“Based on the investigation of the centre, we are alerting clients of Ms. Hu that they may be at increased risk of exposure to blood-borne infections that can be transmitted by improper and unsanitary acupuncture techniques,” Murti said.
She said used needles were being stored in open receptacles at the clinic and it could not be confirmed that they were not being re-used. No new needles were found at the clinic, and all of the products on site had expired in 2006.
Murti said Hu did not keep proper records, and it’s difficult to know how many people might have been affected, but there could be more than 1,000 former and current patients.
Clients for whom information is available will be mailed a letter to alert them of their potential exposure to communicable diseases. A version is also available on the Fraser Health website.
The clinic is now under a “closure order,” which will not be lifted until and if Hu can prove that the proper standards are being followed, Murti said.
She said Monday that Hu “has been very compliant” and that the health authority is now waiting for a re-inspection to take place.
Hu operated a clinic on Montrose Street from 2001 to 2004, and has been practising from the McCallum Road location since April 1, 2005, according to Fraser Health.
Murti said anyone who received acupuncture at the clinic or other treatments involving blood or bodily fluids is at risk. They should follow up with their health-care provider and undergo testing, she said.
Fraser Health has been working with the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncturists of B.C. throughout the investigation. The college has suspended Hu’s licence.
For more information, visit fraserhealth.ca/acupuncturist or call the Abbotsford public health unit at 604-864-3451.
– with files from Tyler Olsen and CTV