Dr. Wayne Harrington, an oral surgeon with a practice in Tulsa, Okla., is being investigated by the Tulsa Health Department for possibly infecting 7,000 patients with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C because of poor sterilization practices.
One of his patients recently tested positive for hepatitis C and HIV without having any other risk factors other than receiving dental treatment. The state dental board, the state bureau of narcotics and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency are also looking into the dentist.
After finding out about the infected patient, the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry conducted a surprise inspection of Harrington's practice. They discovered a number of violations. The problems with Harrington’s practice included regular use of a rusty set of instruments on patients with known infections and the practice of pouring bleach on wounds until they "turned white."
Susan Rogers, executive director of Oklahoma's Board of Dentistry, called the incident a "perfect storm." She said that the board is discussing ways to prevent similar incidents.
"We have a pretty good process," she said. "This isn't something we would have detected through our current methods of doing what we do in the inspections, because this is something that just never happens." The Oklahoma's Board of Dentistry has filed a complaint against Harrington.
According to Harrington and his staff, he treated a "high population of known infectious disease carrier patients," Yahoo News reports.
"During the inspections, Dr. Harrington referred to his staff regarding all sterilization and drug procedures in his office," the complaint against Harrington read. "He advised, 'They take care of that. I don't.'" According to the complaint, Harrington allegedly re-used needles. One drug vial discovered in Harrington’s cabinets expired in 1993.
The Tulsa Health Department has set up a hotline at (918) 595-4500 for people with questions.