New Jersey Dentist Suspended After Death of Patient, 14 Sickened by Bacterial Heart Infection

February 5, 2020 Updated: February 5, 2020
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A New Jersey oral surgeon has had his license suspended for five years after one of his patients died and 14 others were sickened by a bacterial heart infection.

Dr. John Vecchione agreed to the suspension and paying $293,500 in penalties on Feb. 3, years after denying the allegations, according to a press release from the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs.

“Dr. Vecchione spent years denying any responsibility for the infections contracted by patients in his care,” said Howard Pine, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs.

Between 2012 and 2014, 15 of Vecchione’s patients at the dental office in Budd Lake became sickened with bacterial endocarditis, of which 12 required heart surgery and one died, according to the release.

Vecchione’s “continued failure to follow infection protocols exposed his patients to the risk of contracting the serious heart infection,” state officials said, adding that the dentist engaged in “professional misconduct and gross negligence that endangered patient lives” by failing to follow infection control protocols.

The dentist had his license temporarily suspended in August 2016 after a breach of infection protocols was found in his office after unannounced state inspections.

The state alleged Vecchione failed to use sterile water or sterile saline during surgical procedures, improperly handled and stored single dose medication vials, and did not properly prepare or sterilize instruments.

Vecchione agreed in a Jan. 22 final consent order to settle the case. As the suspension is retroactive to Vecchione’s temporary suspension date, he will be able to begin his one-year probationary period as early as Aug. 31, given he complies with terms of the consent order and demonstrates his fitness and competency to resume practice, the state said.

Before resuming practice, he must also complete board-approved courses in office management, record-keeping, and infection control practices, procedures, implementation, and maintenance, as well as an ethics course for medical professionals, according to the release.

“We are pleased that he has agreed to accept the terms of this Final Consent Order, which not only hold Dr. Vecchione responsible for his repeated violations of infection control regulations, but put in place controls and procedures to protect patients should he ever seek to reinstate his license and resume practicing dentistry in this state,” Pine said.

“This settlement brings closure to a troubling case in which a medical professional allegedly took irresponsible risks with patients’ health by disregarding health and safety standards,” Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said. “We are committed to ensuring that medical practitioners do not flout professional standards in place to protect patients’ health and safety.”