Originally published April 9 2013
More than 7,000 Oklahomans potentially exposed to hepatitis, HIV at dentist's office
by Jonathan Benson, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Allegations that a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based oral surgeon failed to maintain safe operating standards at his practice, and thus exposed thousands of patients to potentially-deadly diseases, have been confirmed more than a week after the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry (OBD) first received complaints about the issue. According to reports, Dr. W. Scott Harrington had been operating a filthy practice that may have exposed thousands of patients to hepatitis, HIV, and other serious health conditions.
After receiving an initial complaint from an infected patient, OBD brought the issue to the attention of Oklahoma state epidemiologist Kristy Bradley who, together with Tulsa Health Department (THD) Director Bruce Dart, reportedly sent letters to all 7,000 patients identified in Dr. Harrington's records. In the letters, patients were instructed to get tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, which may have been transmitted via rusty instruments, contaminated drug vials, and sanitary equipment that was improperly maintained.
"Although we do not know whether you were personally exposed to blood-borne viruses, there is a possibility that you may have been exposed to infectious material," stated the letters, which officials admitted would likely be "alarming and frightening" for the patients involved. OBD also filed a 17-count complaint against Harrington for the alleged violations, which were later confirmed as valid by Harrington's lawyer.
Routine inspections of dental practices are rareBecause such cases of misconduct are rare, OBD executive director Susan Rogers says her agency, which is staffed by only five employees, does not conduct routine safety inspections of the roughly 2,100 dental practices throughout the state. OBD instead responds to complaints levied against specific dental practices as they arise, and these complaints primarily involve things like missing drugs or potential sexual misconduct.
Since dentists can easily lose their licenses if they violate health codes, there is typically no need to conduct inspections as most dentists are motivated to keep their practices modern and sanitary. This is why, according to OBD, the Harrington case is an anomaly. According to the agency's official complaint, Harrington's practice was using the same drug vials on multiple patients, re-inserting used needles into drug vials after initial use, and failing to conduct appropriate tests on its sterilizing equipment.
WPTV News reports that Harrington is set to appear before OBD at a hearing on April 19, where it will be determined whether or not he can continue in the dental profession. And though he was initially tracked down to be hiding out at his second home near Phoenix, Arizona, his current whereabouts are unknown.
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