Green Country legislators respond to HIV, Hep. C dental investigation

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(Oklahoma Board of Dentistry)
(Oklahoma Board of Dentistry)
Updated: 3/28/2013 10:27 pm Published: 3/28/2013 3:09 pm

Green Country legislators are reacting to the investigation into a Tulsa County dentist for possible exposing patients to Hepatitis C and HIV.

A Dr. W. Scott Harrington, D.M.D, is facing multiple charges after an investigation showed a patient tested positive for HIV and Hepatitis C.

The Board of Dentistry, the State Department of Health and the Tulsa Health Department reported the findings of their investigation of the Harrington practice on Thursday. They are notifying approximately 7,000 patients of the practice about potential exposure to blood-borne viruses and encouraging them to be checked for Hepatitis B, C and HIV.

Harrington, who has been licensed to practice dentistry in the state of Oklahoma since the late 1970s, surrendered his state dental license on Mar. 20. The above allegations took place between January of 2010 and Mar. 19, 2013. Harrington has an office in Tulsa and a satellite location in Owasso.

A number of Tulsa-area state representatives, led by state Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, responded to the findings of the investigation.

“This news is absolutely shocking to me,” said Rep. Derby. “I’m just absolutely floored. The allegations against this dentist are beyond the pale. He has been seeing thousands of Oklahomans for decades and has been violating his patients’ trust. Now we have a situation on our hands where countless people might have contracted a sexually-transmitted disease just because they wanted to get a teeth cleaning or a cavity filled.”

The Oklahoma Bureau and Narcotics and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration investigated the control and use of drugs by the office.

“To practice medicine or dentistry and break trust with a patient is reprehensible,” said state Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy. “To think that, at least, 7,000 Oklahomans are at risk because of the willing disregard of one dentist is absolutely terrible. Failing to keep track of basic items such as a drug log and allowing tools to be kept in unsanitary environments is absolutely unacceptable.”

“The specific allegations in the Board of Dentistry’s report are concerning,” said state Rep. Katie Henke,” R-Tulsa. “To run an office without proper licensing and allow dental assistants to perform actions they were not properly trained for is irresponsible. This office has knowingly disregarded health and safety laws for years now and everyone involved must be held accountable.”

“Thousands of Green Country residents are now at risk because of irresponsible actions,” said state Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa. “Then you can factor in the families of those patients. This is a very bad situation and it’s a shame so many people have been possibly exposed to such dangerous diseases just because they went to the dentist.”

The Tulsa Health Department is encouraging all patients of Dr. Harrington to go to its North Regional Health and Wellness Center, 5635 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., for an STD screening. The service will be provided free-of-charge and on a walk-in basis for those patients. The screenings will be conducted on Saturday, Mar. 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Monday, Apr. 1, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“It is absolutely shameful we are talking about this,” Rep. Derby said. “No one should become exposed to such terrible diseases because of a trip to the dentist. As the representative for the Owasso area, I’m shocked and appalled so many residents of this city and the Tulsa area could be impacted by this news. I applaud the Tulsa Health Department, the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry and the State Department of Health for their thorough investigation of this matter. I hope and pray no one else has been infected by the gross negligence of one dentist.”

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