Health department officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma, are warning the public that 7,000 patients of Dr. Scott Harrington, a local oral surgeon, were exposed to and could have contracted HIV, hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C for the practice’s inadequate sterilization procedures.
Health officials were first alerted to a problem when a patient of Dr. Harrington’s, with no known risk factors from hepatitis or HIV, contracted both HIV and hepatitis C. Investigators from the health department and the Oklahoma board of Dentistry investigated and found that the doctor was letting his assistants perform full IV sedation —a felony in Oklahoma — assistants were reusing needles, and separating used dental tools, based on which patients had the viruses and which they believed did not, for different sterilization procedures. Those used on infected patients were treated with bleach, which caused pocking and rust. They were then used on all patients. Deputy Director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, Susan Rogers, described the sterilization practices to CNN as “…unacceptable; you’re supposed to treat everybody like they have HIV, hep C.” She added that because Harrington is not only a dentist, but an oral surgeon, the situation was exacerbated.
When asked about the sterilization procedures at his practice, Harrington reportedly told the board that his staff handled that, “They take care of that, I don’t.” The horrifying implication here is that no one really knows how long those practices have been in place; Harrington has been in practice for 26 years. The doctor, who is working with officials through an attorney, has voluntarily surrendered his license for the time being.
Officials are encouraging anyone who thinks that they may have been exposed to get tested for HIV and hepatitis B and C. The Tulsa Board of Health has set up three locations where people can receive free testing, which can be found through their website: http://www.tulsa-health.org/.