Rogue Dentist: HIV, Hepatitis Warnings for 7,000 Patients

March 28, 2013 9:39 pm Last Updated: March 29, 2013 4:18 pm

Rogue dentist HIV: An Oklahoma dentist possibly exposed as many as 7,000 people to HIV and hepatitis due to bad sterilization practices. 

A dentist in Oklahoma may have exposed as many as 7,000 patients to HIV, hepatitis C, or hepatitis C due to poor sterilization techniques.

Dr. Wayne Harrington, an oral surgeon in Tulsa, Okla., is currently under investigation by several state and federal agencies after one of his patients tested positive for HIV and hepatitis C. The patient did not have other known risk factors other than going to the dentist.  

The Oklahoma Board of Dentistry carried out a sudden inspection of Harrington’s practice in mid-March and they found a number of issues with his business.

He allegedly used rusty instruments on patients with infections and he poured bleach on wounds until they “turned white,” ABC said. He also had medications that expired 20 years ago and sometimes used unlicensed workers to give medications.

He was also a Medicaid provider, which according to Susan Rogers, executive director of Oklahoma’s Board of Dentistry, means that a significant number of his patients likely had hepatitis or HIV.

‘‘This is an unprecedented event. To my knowledge, this has never happened before as far as a public notification of a (hepatitis C) case involving a dental office,’’ she said.

Harrington voluntarily gave up his license and closed his offices in Tulsa and suburban Owasso and is cooperating with investigators, said Kaitlin Snider, a spokeswoman for the Tulsa Health Department. He faces a hearing April 19 where his license could be permanently revoked.

‘‘It’s uncertain how long those practices have been in place,’’ Snider said. ‘‘He’s been practicing for 36 years.’’

Officials are sending letters to 7,000 known patients of Harrington, but they noted that they do not have information for patients before 2007. The letters urge the patients to be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV — viruses typically spread through intravenous drug use or unprotected sex, not occupational settings.

Harrington and his staff members told investigators that he treated a “high population of known infectious disease carrier patients,” reads a complaint from the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, according to ABC.

“During the inspections, Dr. Harrington referred to his staff regarding all sterilization and drug procedures in his office,” the complaint said. “He advised, ‘They take care of that. I don’t.'”

With files by The Associated Press

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