Malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm recently reported of an Oklahoma dentist who exposed about 7,000 patients to HIV and hepatitis. The state’s Department of Health conducted free testing to those patients, at least 60 of whom have already tested positive for the infectious diseases.
The dentist, Dr. Wayne Harrington, is currently being investigated by the Oklahoma Dental Board, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, and the DEA. Out of the more than 3,000 patients tested thus far, 57 have tested positive for hepatitis C, three for hepatitis B, and at least one for HIV.
One lawsuit has already been filed against the doctor and his clinic, by 38-year-old Christina Quin, who saw Harrington to have her wisdom teeth removed in 2009. After the surgery, she experienced increasing pain and discovered she had an infection. She was prescribed antibiotics but the infection persisted; she ultimately developed liver problems, a rash, and high fever. She hopes her case will go to trial within the year.
Both the Tulsa and Oklahoma health departments are currently in the process of notifying Harrington’s patients of their test results – those testing positive for hepatitis or HIV will be contacted personally, so they may be advised about the disease and its care options. Those patients’ spouses are also encouraged to be tested.
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The outbreak began in March 2013, after one patient tested positive for both HIV and hepatitis C. Officials then launched a surprised investigation into Harrington’s practice, which revealed rusting instruments, reused needles, and using bleach to clean patients’ wounds, among other gruesome practices.
Harrington has been practicing for more than 35 years in Oklahoma, though he voluntarily surrendered his license after the investigation. He could face criminal charges and will undoubtedly have his license permanently revoked. According to the investigations, Harrington was allowing unauthorized and unlicensed employees perform IV sedations of patients, which is illegal and incredibly dangerous. The drug lockers at the facility were also found unlocked and unattended. Some of the drugs were even years-past expired (one had an expiration date of 1993). There were no inventory logs in the office detailing the drugs in that cabinet.
Although the investigation into the initial source of the infections is still ongoing, it has been speculated that they were the result of Harrington’s habit of accepting Medicaid patients straight from the ER. He was widely known to have a high number of patients with HIV and hepatitis, who he operated on after they had been transferred from local hospitals.
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Even among well-trained dentists and anesthesiologists, IV sedation is dangerous, even life-threatening in some patients. If even one aspect of the procedure is not properly conducted, patients are at risk of stroke, cardiac arrest, allergic reactions, brain injury, and even death.
Even the autoclaves themselves -the device used to sterilize tools – were not being used properly. Testing and cleaning to ensure the device was working properly is supposed to be performed at least once a month. The autoclaves in Harrington’s office had not been cleaned or tested in six years. In total, Harrington was cited for 17 violations, including being a menace to public health.
Hepatitis B and C are associated with liver disease and failure, and HIV is the predecessor of AIDS. Dental malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm encourage all Harrington’s patients and their spouses to be tested for HIV and hepatitis. If you or a loved one contracted a chronic disease from Harrington or any other negligent health care provider, you may be entitled to significant compensation for you suffering.