7,000 told to get HIV tests

Map locates city where health officials are urging 7000 patients of Oklahoma dentist Dr. W. Scott Harrington to seek testing for hepatitis or HIV.
Map locates city where health officials are urging 7000 patients of Oklahoma dentist Dr. W. Scott Harrington to seek testing for hepatitis or HIV. (S. Chen)

Hepatitis checks are also urged for clients of a Tulsa dentist called a "menace."

Posted: March 30, 2013

TULSA, Okla. - Health officials Thursday urged an Oklahoma oral surgeon's patients to undergo hepatitis and HIV testing, saying filthy conditions behind his office's spiffy facade posed a threat to his 7,000 clients and made him a "menace to the public health."

The Oklahoma Board of Dentistry said Thursday that state and county health inspectors went to W. Scott Harrington's practice after a patient with no other known risk factors tested positive for both hepatitis C and the virus that causes AIDS. Inspectors found multiple sterilization issues at Harrington's offices, including cross-contamination of needles and other instruments and the use of a separate, rusty set of instruments for patients who were known to carry infectious diseases, according to a complaint.

Offices closed

Harrington voluntarily gave up his license and closed his offices in Tulsa and Owasso and is cooperating with investigators, said Kaitlin Snider, a spokeswoman for the Tulsa Health Department. He faces a hearing April 19 in which his license could be permanently revoked.

Officials are sending letters to 7,000 people who are known to have been patients of Harrington, but they noted that they do not have information for patients before 2007.

Harrington could not be reached for comment Thursday. A message at his Tulsa office said it was closed, and the doctor's answering service referred callers to the Tulsa Health Department. Phone numbers listed for Harrington were disconnected. A message left with Harrington's malpractice attorney in Tulsa, Jim Secrest II, was not immediately returned.

'Unprecedented'

Harrington's practice in Tulsa is in a tony part of town, on a row of some of the city's most upscale medical practices. The white-and-green stucco, two-story dental clinic has the doctor's name in fancy letters on the facade.

Snider said letters would be sent Friday to 7,000 patients recommending testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. The agencies say that it is rare for blood-borne infections to spread in occupational settings but that tests are important.

"This is an unprecedented event," Susan Rogers, executive director of the state Board of Dentistry, said.

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