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Hundreds of Tulsa dental patients are screened for hepatitis, HIV

March 30, 2013|By Paloma Esquivel
  • Hundreds of Dr. W. Scott Harrington's dental patients came to a free clinic at the Tulsa Health Department to be tested for hepatitis and HIV.
Hundreds of Dr. W. Scott Harrington's dental patients came to a free… (James Gibbard / Tulsa World )

Hundreds of dental patients in Tulsa were screened for hepatitis and HIV on Saturday at a special testing clinic for those who might have been exposed to disease by what authorities called the unsafe practices of a local dentist.

More than 7,000 current and former patients of Dr. W. Scott Harrington began receiving letters this week urging them to be tested at no cost. The first free clinic was held Saturday and 420 patients were screened, according to the Tulsa Health Department.

State officials said Harrington’s office was riddled with unsafe practices. An investigation found multiple violations of health and safety laws, including problems with sterilization, rusty instruments and an unlocked and unattended drug cabinet.

Office workers told investigators that they treated a high number of patients suffering from infectious disease and that they kept two separate sets of instruments, one for diseased patients and another for those not believed to suffer from infectious disease. The allegations were laid out by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry in a 17-count complaint against Harrington.  

Officials have identified one patient who may have been infected with hepatitis C at Harrington’s offices. That person also originally tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, but further testing showed it was a false positive.

One woman who took her four children to Harrington told ABC News that she was shaken by the allegations.

"If you can't trust a doctor and a dentist and ... the people that are supposed to do right by you ... who can you trust?" Deann Zavala said.  

Harrington has suspended his practice pending the resolution of the charges against him.

A spokeswoman for the state Health Department told the Los Angeles Times on Friday that she expected testing would continue for weeks.

The special testing clinic will reopen Monday morning. Patients who received a letter from the health department were asked to bring it along.

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paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

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