Tulsa County dentist investigated for possibly exposing patients to HIV, Hep. C

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Updated: 3/29/2013 2:56 pm Published: 3/21/2013 4:57 pm

The Tulsa Health Department, the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Oklahoma State Board of Dentistry are investigating Dr. W. Scott Harrington on allegations he exposed patients to Hep C and HIV.

The investigation was first announced last week, but details were not released until Thursday. Officials say Harrington is being investigated for possibly exposing 7,000 patients to HIV and Hepatitis C. The investigation revealed practices that could have exposed patients to infectious material.

Susan Rogers, executive director of the board of dentistry, says "This one is above and beyond anything we've seen in Oklahoma, or anywhere else in the United States.

She says the Centers for Disease Control have never confirmed a case like this, allegations of infectious diseases spread by a dental surgeon.

"This is a different circumstance because of the type of dentistry he did, it was oral surgery. It's invasive every day, you have blood in that office every single day."

According to the State Board of Dentistry, the investigation of the practice of W. Scott Harrington, D.M.D. so far has found numerous violations of health and safety laws and major violations of the State Dental Act. Dental Board investigators have been assisted by agents from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration concerning the maintenance, control and use of drugs on the premises.

Investigators allege one drug vial found in the medicine cabinet just days ago expired in 1993. Records showed morphine had been used on patients intermittently throughout 2012, but according to DEA records, Harrington hadn't received the drug in over three years.

"When we were there, his answers were 'I don't take care of that, talk to my assistants,'" Rogers said. "which is gross negligence to us."

Investigators say his assistants used two sets of instruments, one for known infectious disease carriers and one for others, and some of the instruments had "reddish brown spots" from rust.

Investigators also found the machine for sterilizing dental tools wasn't being use properly, and that a monthly test required to ensure the machine is working as it should hadn't been done in over six years. Findings also included Harrington had no written "infection prevention policies or procedures" for this staff to follow, and he had no DEA permit to use medications at his satellite office in Owasso.

The findings prompted an emergency hearing by the board of dentistry, only the fifth in about 20 years.

The dentist and dental office voluntarily discontinued practicing upon the beginning of the investigation. The dentist is cooperating with investigators through his attorney. The State Board of Dentistry has been working very closely with the State Health Department on this investigation. The investigation is multifaceted and ongoing.

Rogers says her board is accountable.

"That's our duty," she began. "to pull his license right then upon an investigation of a complaint."

FOX23's Janai Norman asked whether Rogers felt she now had a duty to make changes to prevent this from happening again.

"That is up to my board, but I know we are having active discussions about it, yes."

Right now, Rogers say dentists file to renew their licenses each year, and upon answering four pages worth of questions, if nothing suspicious comes up, the state grants that renewal without any inspections.

Representative David Derby, chair of the Oklahoma House Public Health Committee, says that lack of oversight cannot continue.

"I think we need to have a little it more oversight on these particular issues, especially dealing with autoclaving and how you sterilize your equipment."

Derby says he plans to work with health officials to fix some of these oversight issues this year, including getting health investigators more funds to get more boots on the ground to help with inspections.

Patients who had procedures at Dr. W. Scott Harrington's dental practice, located at 2111 S. Atlanta Place in Tulsa or at 12806 E. 86th Place N. in Owasso, Oklahoma will begin to receive letters in the mail. The notification includes patients who have visited Dr. Harrington since 2007 and recommends they be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.

Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV are serious medical conditions and infected patients may not have outward symptoms of the disease for many years. As a precaution, and in order to take appropriate steps to protect their health, it is important for these patients to get tested. It should be noted that transmission in this type of occupational setting is rare.

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.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

vance - 4/16/2013 4:12 PM
0 Votes
@ Anonymous if you had took the time to look at when i posted "why are you even reporting this" you would see that it was a week before thay told us the whole story fox23 originally only said that a dentist in Tulsa is under investigation. did not say who did not say why gave no info for almost a week now that we know everything i am sicked just like you.

AP12345 - 3/29/2013 10:32 PM
0 Votes
Why doesn't the health department do an annual inspection of the facility?! They send out a 4 page questionnaire but obviously Scott Harrington knew exactly what to say in order keep the inspectors away. This is just sickening! Some of you stating that it isn't a big deal and that he should be back in business because he has a "good heart". Think of how you would feel if you visited this dentist and could possibly have HIV, Hep B or Hep C and since then, you have had two kids... meaning, your two kids could be affected by this!?! This is NOT ok! Not only should he be punished, but his employees should be punished as well. The health department is also to blame and I really hope that they step up and start doing mandatory annual inspections of all facilities!!

Spooky - 3/29/2013 9:49 AM
0 Votes
The point of the article is to inform people of potential health risks. The charges; both current and future, have not been proven in a court of law. However; there is overwhelming health violations, which should be reported to the public. In this case the news media is doing a service to the public. "Rusty instruments" is misleading; given most of the handheld instruments are made from stainless steel.

Mayor Maynot - 3/29/2013 9:15 AM
0 Votes
Looks like a career change for this doom-n-gloom dentist. After this disclosure Dr Scott won't be certified enough to do doggy dental. The potential of infecting 7,000 individuals, he's at the top of the list way past typhoid Betty.

FOX23News - 3/29/2013 8:41 AM
1 Vote
We are reporting this story because the Tulsa County Health Department wants the information out there so his patients can get tested.

Tinkerbelle - 3/28/2013 11:31 PM
0 Votes
I'm wondering why Dr. Harrington is not a member of the Better Business Bureau?? Hmm.... This should be a MAJOR RED FLAG don't you think? By the way, Dr. Harrington removed my wisdom teeth 30 years ago and now I'm probably going to have to get tested for ALL of these horrible diseases. He knew good and well that his Auto Clave that was SUPPOSE to clean his instruments was not working and he also had a TON of other violations. I'm sure he's not a stupid man.... Him AND his entire staff should go to prison for putting people's lives in jeopardy.

Bowandarrough - 3/28/2013 11:01 PM
0 Votes
I am sure there will be many troubled Tulsans tonight after hearing this news. I was thinking we could take this tragedy and and make it into something positive for our community. Why not instead of running to the Heath department, concerned citizens could go and give blood at our Red Cross or the Oklahoma Blood institute. They test your blood anyway. Instead of being fearful for our own lives we could be saving other's lives.

Assume - 3/28/2013 4:22 PM
0 Votes
Dr. Scott Harrington is a great surgeon & a good man who has practiced in the greater Tulsa area for over 20 yrs- articles like this ruin peoples careers- there is NO CURRENT PROOF stating that ANY patient has been diagnosed w/HIV, HEP C, OR HEP B. I have had multiple procedures are Dr. Harrington's office & I was recently tested for HIV, Hep C & Hep B and all were Negative. I hope Dr. Harrington s back in business by the end of next month as he is truly a gifted surgeon with a great heart, I would hate to see his career end because of this.

Anonymous - 3/28/2013 2:03 PM
0 Votes
omg are you stupid why would you ask what the point of posting this was for! If this was your dentist wouldn't you want to know if you were given HIV by your dentist you !@#$@#$ I can't even think of a word to call you..but this story is HORRIBLE...these poor patients have no clue they could have this! OMG what has this world come to when the people you trust with your health exposes you to something you never yourself would have exposed yourself too..omg prayers to all this monsters patients!

vance - 3/21/2013 5:16 PM
2 Votes
Be on the look out everyone somewhere in Tulsa someone might brake a law today. more info coming soon.
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