A health scare that has rocked a community has dental patients on edge.
Although his work with patients in Tulsa and Owasso has been suspended while officials continue to investigate a number of alleged health and safety violations, dental Surgeon W. Scott Harrington has been in practice for 36 years and had a clean record.
Health officials announced Thursday at least 7,000 current and former patients needed to be tested immediately for possible exposure to HIV and Hepatitis B and C.
A formal investigation began in March after one of Harrington’s patients, reportedly with no other risk factors, tested positive for HIV and Hepatitis C.
Health officials suspect outdated procedures contributed to an increased risk of cross contamination.
DeAnn Zavala now fears her children’s lives have been put in danger.
The Tulsa Health Department wants all of Harrington’s patients to get tested as soon as possible.
“It’s just wrong,” said Zavala. “If you can’t trust a doctor and dentist the people who are supposed to do right by you, who can you trust?”
Another patient who says she had a procedure done last month says she was insecure about her smile until she saw Dr. Harrington.
“I was so happy to get it done and to smile and be proud of myself,” said Stephanie Rodden.
She says she has two young boys and worries how this will affect her family.
“I’m at the stage where I am hurt because it’s just messing with my life but messing with my children and my husband,” said Rodden.
Zavala says he feels betrayed, “How dare him, how?”
She says she remembers two nurses who assisted Dr. Harrington with two of her children’s dental procedures. She says the nurses administered the anesthesia and IVs.
“Different kids reacted different ways to the anesthesia after the surgery,” said Zavala.
The Tulsa Health Department says Harrington’s assistants were not licensed to administer anesthesia or IVs and believe that was going on before surgeries.
“It was a nurse but I don’t remember her face, I was so loopy,” said Rodden.
Mrs. Zavala took four of her eleven children to Dr. Harrington because he accepted Sooner Care and has been a respected dentist in Tulsa for decades.
Her youngest daughter had a tooth removed.
“An eight year old? How do I look at her and tell her she may have HIV or AIDS?” said Zavala.
The Board of Dentistry says, "a lot of oral surgeons do not take medicaid, and Dr. Harrington was one of the few surgeons who accepted Medicaid," said Susan Rogers. "At his own ommission he told the Health Department he had a high population pf patients with Hepatitis C and HIV." (Rogers clarified information about Harrington's patients and HIV status.)
What is most frightening to Zavala right now are the results of a blood test on one of her 18-year-old son’s who had his wisdom teeth pulled in November by Dr. Harrington. Not long after the surgery she says results of a blood test showed high liver enzymes, which could be a sign of Hepatitis among other conditions.
While she prays for her son and her other children she wonders how many others are affected.
“You teach your kids to try and be safe. You think by taking them to a doctor or to a dentist you are doing the right thing.” Now he may have changed 7,000 people’s lives?” said Zavala.
Mrs. Rodden says she just waits and gets tested.
“I am not as worried about myself but the future of my kids if I possibly do have something," said Rodden.
An ER doctor told FOX23 News he is not aware of doctors being required to disclose they treat patients with communicable diseases. However, the Health Department says anyone who tests positive must be reported to the agency.
All patients who have been seen by doctor Harrington since 2007 will be receiving a letter in the mail encouraging them to get tested.
The Health Department says this type of transmission is very rare in a dentist office.
There will be a hearing on April 19th in front of the Board of Dentistry, but that date could change. That board will serve as the judge for that hearing, they will determine what will be done regarding Harrington’s license.
Currently, they are reporting 18 complaints including rusty dental instruments, medicine that expired in 1993, records showing patients were given morphine.
However, officials report according to DEA records, Harrington hadn’t received the drug from distributors in over three years. He also had no DEA permit for his Owasso office, assistants didn’t have licenses to administer IV sedation.
The DA is aware of the investigation, it is ongoing and at this point no charges have been presented to the DA’s office for review.
All testing will be done free of charge at the Tulsa Health Department’s North Regional Health and Wellness Center located at 5635 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Services will be provided on a walk-in basis starting on Saturday, March 30 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and will resume on Monday, April 1 from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. In addition, the health department has set up a hotline at (918) 595-4500 for people with questions about this notification or hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV.
Patient information was only available from the past seven years; therefore, patients who were seen by Dr. Harrington prior to 2007 may not receive a letter. Anyone with additional questions may call the hotline.
The Tulsa Health Department will continue to provide updated information on their website at www.tulsa-health.org