TULSA - Officials with the Tulsa Health Department and the Oklahoma State Department of Health are in the process of notifying around 7,000 patients of a local dental practice they may have been exposed to blood-borne viruses.
During a press conference Thursday, local and state health officials as well as the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry released details surrounding the investigation, which revealed inappropriate infection control practices at the dental offices of W. Scott Harrington, D.M.D. and officials say Harrington put patients at risk for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, KJRH reported.
Investigators were first tipped off to Harrington's office after one of his patients contracted HIV and hepatitis C It was ultimately traced back to the dentist.
Further inspection revealed a lack of sterilization, illegal administering of IVs by dental assistants, even a vial believed to have expired 20 years ago in an unlocked drug cabinet.
Despite health officials' discovery, Susan Rogers, executive director of the Oklahoma State
Board of Dentistry, emphasized the importance of remaining calm while maintaining the gravity of the accusations.
"I don't believe he had any idea there was anything bad happening," she said. " ... (It's) absolutely one of the most serious cases we've ever had."
Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Bruce Smart echoed Rogers following the announcement.
"We know it's very, very rare. It doesn't happen easily, but the fact that there has been unsafe practices, we never know if transmission could occur," he said.
Patients who were treated at either of Harrington's dental practices -- located at 2111 S. Atlanta Pl. in Tulsa and 12806 E. 86th Pl. N. in Owasso -- since 2007 will receive letters from health officials and are encouraged to undergo testing for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.
The Tulsa Health Department's North Regional Health and Wellness Center at 5635 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is performing free tests on a walk-in basis Saturday, March 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Monday, April 1 from 8 a.m. to 6 pm. The health department has also set up a hotline at (918) 595-4500 for people with questions.
Officials say patient information was only available for the past seven years: therefore, patients seen by Harrington before 2007 may not receive letters. Anyone with additional questions may call the hotline.
Harrington, who the state says has been practicing dentistry since 1977, has voluntarily closed his doors while officials conduct the investigation. A hearing is scheduled for April to determine his dental future.
The Tulsa Health Department will continue to provide updated information on their website at www.tulsa-health.org