Nearly 600 veterans who received medical care at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin, may have been infected with HIV or hepatitis.
A dentist put the hundreds of veterans at risk of hepatitis B and C, or HIV, after failing to follow proper sanitation procedures. Free screenings are now being offered to veterans, according to the La Cross Tribune.
The dentist cleaned and re-used drill bits without properly sterilizing them. The VA requires dentists to dispose of bits after a single use. According to WEAU-TV, he used the same bits for a year after he was hired in October 2015.
On Tuesday, the VA announced it started contacting the 592 VA patients that had visited over the year. If veterans have been found to be infected, the VA said it would “provide the necessary care and treatment without charge,” the Tribune reported.
“We’re trying to be transparent,” acting director Victoria Brahm said. “We’re taking extreme measures.”
She elaborated that the unnamed dentist could face criminal charges. He has been removed from his duties while a dental board reviews his case.
“It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations,” Brahm told WEAU-TV. “During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure.”
The president-elect of Wisconsin’s Dental Association, Dr. David Clemens, told WKBT-TV: “When I first started doing dentistry in 1980, that was considered acceptable.” He added that dentists now have to place reusable tools in an autoclave for sterilization.