Oklahoma: Dental clinic inspections not necessary
TULSA, Okla. — The Oklahoma agency that accused a Tulsa oral surgeon of unsanitary practices, putting thousands of people at risk for hepatitis and HIV, says it has never needed to inspect medical offices regularly.
“This doesn't happen,” Susan Rogers, the executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, said on Friday. “There's not been a need for these inspections because we've never had a complaint like this.”
That's not unusual. Some other states don't routinely inspect clinics, either, noting they don't have the money and such incidents are so rare that the need just is not there.
In Oklahoma, the Board of Dentistry's small staff conducts inspections only if the agency receives a complaint.
That's what happened in the case of Dr. W. Scott Harrington, whose practice was inspected when officials determined a patient may have contracted hepatitis C while having dental surgery.
State epidemiologist Kristy Bradley and Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart sent letters on Friday to all 7,000 patients they found in six years of Harrington's records, urging them to be screened for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and the virus that causes AIDS because of unsafe practices in his two clinics. More patients may be at risk, but Harrington's files go back only to 2007.
In the letter, they acknowledged their discovery could be “alarming and frightening” for the patients.
Rogers' office filed a 17-count complaint against Harrington, saying officials found rusty instruments, potentially contaminated drug vials and improper use of a machine to sterilize tools.
According to guidelines from the American Dental Association, of which Harrington was listed as a member on Friday, to keep their licenses dentists must stay up to date on the latest scientific and clinical developments.
Rogers noted that dentists know they could lose their licenses if they violate health codes, so they are motivated to “do the right thing” — including clean their instruments and require staff to be trained.
Rogers said the Oklahoma board will consider changes in its practices but that it was too early to provide specifics.
In Colorado, where an oral surgeon was accused of reusing needles and syringes, the state does not routinely inspect dental offices. No changes were made to that policy after the 2012 incident.
“We respond if there is a complaint,” spokesman Mark Salley said on Friday. “I don't know of any agency in this department that has the resources to conduct routine inspections of private practices.”
California, too, responds only if a problem is reported.
“We are complaint-driven. Inspections are not routine. We're looking at 30,000-plus dentists in California alone,” said Kim Trefry, the enforcement chief at the Dental Board of California.
Dr. Douglas Dieterich, a professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, called the Oklahoma case “an anomaly.”
“There's all sorts of codes. The employees are watching. The patients are watching. With all the news reports of mini-epidemics caused by unsafe practices, I think everybody is” more careful, Dieterich said.
Harrington had been a dentist for 36 years before giving up his license March 20. Until Thursday, the state Dentistry Board had had no problem with Harrington, who could not be reached for comment.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Arizona county clears girl shooter in gun range death
- Southern Calif. high surf expected to subside today
- Va.’s first couple, former Gov. and Mrs. McDonnell, often together, FBI agent testifies
- U.S. waffling on ISIS feeds confusion among possible allies
- Prison term for Detroit porch gunman debated
- Ferguson sued over police actions amid riots
- Obama rules out military response
- Military pilot was killed in Va. crash
- Doctor’s license reinstated pending hearing in W.Va.
- Chicago officer accused of putting gun in suspect’s mouth
- Study examines body’s bacteria on move indoors