A UK National Health Service (NHS) surgeon who kept his HIV infection secret because he feared he would be stigmatised triggered a nationwide search for people he may have contaminated, The Daily Telegraph reports a court has heard.
The report says Tamas Nyary, who is a Hungarian national and had a culturally “deep rooted” view of how people would stigmatise those with HIV, had worked at 24 hospitals across the UK between 2010 and 2016 and even performed surgery before suspicions eventually were aroused. The 45-year-old trauma and orthopaedic surgeon had also used another person’s blood sample to avoid his secret being found out.
The report says Nyary was given a one-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, after admitting a series of offences connected to the cover up. He is currently suspended by the General Medical Council, which require medics to reveal any condition that could affect their work, while it carries out an investigation.
The Nottingham Crown Court heard Nyary had qualified as a doctor in Hungary before coming to the UK to work. When he applied for a position with Nottingham University Hospitals in 2013, he altered a 2010 vaccination report that showed he was free from HIV to read 2012 and make it appear current.
Although it is not clear exactly when he contracted the virus, the orthopaedic fellow later told police he changed the date because he simply needed a more up to date report. He got the job at Nottingham but was not thought to be HIV positive at that time.
The report says in 2015, he used a home testing kit which produced an HIV positive result. While working at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital in November that year he submitted his own blood for a full testing using the name of an HIV-positive patient to try to confirm whether he really had had the virus. The court was told he used someone else’s computer logins to view the positive results. The laboratory spotted inconsistencies between his sample and that of the real patient and an inquiry was launched which showed Nyary was the culprit.
A total of 397 patients whom he had treated in Nottingham, Chesterfield and Cornwall were contacted to be offered a blood test and counselling amid fears of contamination. None of them had HIV. Two of those patients told the court of the stress they had suffered while waiting for their results. Rebecca Herbert, prosecuting, said: “Fortunately, the people concerned were tested and it was days of anxiety, not weeks or months, but it would have been a very stressful time.”
The report says during police interviews, Nyary, who has no previous convictions, said he would have declared his condition to bosses, as healthcare worker are required under GMC rules, but feared being stigmatised. Asked if he knew he should inform his superiors, he said: “Well in theory I probably was aware, it’s just because of all the stigma.”
Richard Posner, defending, said Nyary’s fears about people’s reaction to HIV were “deep rooted” and he may have been ignorant that he could have continued working despite his condition.
The report says under the Equality Act 2010, people with an infection like HIV are not required to tell employers unless they are in a “frontline jobs”, including healthcare work or the Army. However, NHS trusts are responsible for carrying out blood tests for blood borne viruses on their healthcare workers who carry out so-called exposure-prone procedures, such as surgery where there is the greatest risk of any cross contamination, an NHS England spokesperson said. Consequently, when Nyary joined the NHS in 2010 he would have been tested and proven negative.
The report says medics are expected to inform bosses of any disease they have to get effective treatment so it can be established whether they are putting the health of patients or colleagues at risk. People with HIV who are given the latest drugs do not pose a threat of infection because the virus in their bloodstream is so low.
For that reason, in 2013, Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, announced an end to a ban on surgeons, dentists and midwives with HIV conducting surgery because the risk of contamination was so miniscule. At that time just over 100 people in the NHS had HIV, and there were only four known examples of a medical professional infecting a patient, none of those happened in the UK.
However, any healthcare worker with HIV is required to inform their employer, then go on a register and be monitored every three months to ensure they are undergoing the correct treatment to ensure the virus in their body is undetectable.The Daily Telegraph report