An oral surgeon in Tulsa has set off a local health panic after the health department discovered his disgusting office practices may have infected thousands of patients. The Tulsa Health Department is sending letters to more than 7,000 current and former patients of Dr. Wayne Harrington, warning them that they should be tested for HIV and hepatitis after learning that one of his patients may have contracted both while receiving treatment.
The doctor, who had been practicing dentistry for more than 30 years, was accused of a wide swath of health violations, including using rust-covered dental instruments, re-using needles to deliver drugs, using unlicensed assistants, and pouring bleach on open wounds as a disinfectant. In addition, to the shoddy sterilization and cleaning practices, the office failed to keep track of his office drug supplies, leaving cabinets open and unsupervised and losing track of drugs that are supposed to be highly controlled substances. Failure to follow to some drug control procedures can be a felony under federal law.
The good news is that trasmission of HIV and hepatitis B and C through dental work is extremely rare. The Centers for Disease Control told CNN that the patient who started the investigation, was the first instance they were aware of where someone contracted hepatitis C from a dental procedure. But since Dr. Harrington was also a Medicare provider, he reportedly had a high percentage of patients who were already infected, raising the risk factors for his office. There are also many other, less serious blood-borne viruses and other infections that could have been spread through his practice.
According to CNN, Harrington voluntarily gave up his license as a result of the investigation, which required an emergency hearing by the state dentistry board. Anyone who thinks they might have been exposed will receive a test free of charge.