Health officials contacting patients, patients contacting lawyers


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Updated: 4/01/2013 10:05 am Published: 3/29/2013 9:09 pm


Health officials are notifying patients of Doctor Scott Harrington, urging them to get tested.

That effort is hampered because they only have access to records going back to 2007, and many patients may have moved out of the Tulsa area since then.

Seven thousand patients of Harrington have been identified based on records dating back to 2007.

Kaitlin Snider, spokesman for the Tulsa Health Department, says,"records prior to that we don't have access to."

Harrington practiced dentistry for 36 years, that leaves about 30 years worth of patients who may not be notified, not to mention those since 2007 who've moved out of the area.

Snider says notification letters are being sent out in batches of about 100 to better keep track of those returned to sender.

"We are tracking returns of addresses and things like that we're collecting into a database, and we're doing our best to contact people who may have been patients of the Dr. Harrington's," she says. "There are processes in place to capture those who may have moved out of state."

Some patients have already been traced to other parts of the state, prompting free testing from the another health department.

Cynthia Harry with Oklahoma City's Health Department tells FOX23 News, "they have identified some individuals who are Oklahoma County residents who were prior patients of Dr. Harrington's dental practice, and so in a joint effort we have decided to open up our clinic hours."

Harris says Friday already dozens of patients who've moved out of the Tulsa area had been tested.

"We're talking about a five year span where these patients could be moving throughout Tulsa into Oklahoma County," she says.

Both Oklahoma City and Tulsa health officials say they'll continuing expanding clinic hours in order to accommodate patient testing. Due to the number of potential patients infected, they say that could last for weeks or even months.

"We know that we will not be able to accommodate all 7,000 people in one day, or even one week," Snider said.

But even before testing starts locally, some patients are looking into their legal options.

"Everybody that has seen the doctor today is in emotional distress, no question about it," Gary Richardson says.

Richardson is a Tulsa lawyer who says people are calling him asking for advice.

"A couple that just got married that of course want to have children, they don't know if they should or not," he says recounting one conversation. "others are asking can I tell my boyfriend, can I tell my girlfriend?"

FOX23's Janai Norman asked Richardson what he's advising clients at this point.

"Basically let's see what happens; let's see what the results are."

He says emotional distress wouldn't necessarily be grounds for a lawsuit against Harrington. And trying to sue government agencies with oversight over Harrington would be difficult.

Still, Richardson says if tests start coming back positive, that could be a game-changer.

"It's scary today, but then it becomes serious," he began. "Definitely there could be a multiple cause of action of multiple plaintiffs, multiple clients"

For now, he recommends waiting on test results. As Richardson puts it, "there's a difference between being concerned and finding out there's no reason to be."

"And then things get better. That would be the best of all worlds if that happened," he says. "I don't know what's going to happen."

The Tulsa Health Department is expecting a big turnout Saturday when testing begins at the North Regional Wellness Center at 10:00 a.m.


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