Hundreds of Patients of Doctor Accused of Unsanitary Practices Get Tested for Hepatitis, HIV

By Staff Reporter on April 1, 2013 6:07 AM EDT

Dental implants
(Representational image) (Photo: Flickr.com/M Janicki)

A day after letters were sent to about 7,000 dental patients regarding poor hygiene at the clinic of Dr. W. Scott Harrington in Oklahoma, hundreds of them showed up at a Tulsa health clinic Saturday to get tested for hepatitis and HIV.

Health officials began investigating Harrington's clinic after one of his patients with no known risk factors tested positive for both hepatitis C and HIV. Investigators found a number of unsafe practices at his clinic. They found needles had been re-used in drug vials after being used to treat other patients. They also noticed expired drugs in a medicine cabinet while an instrument used for treating patients with infectious diseases was rusty, reported Sky News.

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After health officials found that the instruments used in the clinic were not cleaned properly, they sent letters to 7,000 dental patients Friday who had seen Harrington during the past six years, urging them to take blood tests for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The letter had details about how and where to get the blood tests done.

Despite torrential downpours, hundreds of patients lined up to get tested. As many as 420 people were tested Saturday at its North Regional Health and Wellness Center. Health officials will resume screening the patients from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday. 

People, who are being tested, will have to wait for two to three weeks to get the results. For those whose test results are negative, the details will be mailed to them. But, patients who test positive will be interviewed by a Oklahoma health department employee. The official will give details about resources available in their area, a health department spokeswoman told Tulsa World. Health officials have also set up an hotline number to assist patients.  

Oral surgeon Harrington, who has been accused of unsanitary practices, has closed his clinic and is co-operating with the investigators, according to Tulsa Health Department's Kaitlin Snider. The State Dentistry Board has filed a 17-count complaint against Harrington. A hearing is pending before the Board on April 19. Harrington could lose his license owing to "major violations" of the Oklahoma Dental Act.

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