Officials at Wisconsin’s Tomah VA Medical Center have released information about a dentist, whose misuse of instruments, may have exposed nearly 600 patients to HIV as well as Hepatitis B and C. Tomah VA Medical Center officials state that the dentist reused equipment instead of using equipment that was sterilized and disposable. Use of the disposable, sterilized equipment is mandatory at the VA, reports CNN. Now nearly 600 veterans are nervously awaiting results that will tell them if they have been infected or not.
Victoria Brahm, the medical director at Tomah VA Center, gave a press briefing stating that the dentist’s actions were “purposeful” and that he was aware that he was violating VA regulations. Per UPI the issue was brought to the VA’s attention after a fill-in assistance recognized the dentist was not following protocol and reported him.
The dentist, who at this time remains unidentified, will stand before a review board on Monday. Mathew Gowan, a spokesperson for the Tomah VA, states that the dentist faces administrative proceedings. The dentist was hired by the VA back in October of 2015. Records show that during his time with the VA he saw 592 patients. All 592 patients were notified last week that they may have been exposed to HIV or Hepatitis B or C.
ABC News in Chicago reports that the VA has offered the veterans free HIV and Hepatitis testing as well as follow-up care. It is expected that the blood tests will take two to three weeks to get results.
The dentist has not been terminated but instead has been moved to an administrative position. He is currently not seeing patients.
Gowan says that the actual risk of infection of HIV or Hepatitis B and C is low. He adds that they are testing the veterans out if an “abundance of caution.”
The VA had a team look over the records of patients that were HIV positive and those known to have Hepatitis B or C. They reviewed the type of procedures they underwent and calculated the risk of transmission.
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan has publicly questioned why the dentist has been moved to an administrative position instead of being terminated. The Speaker said that the news is not only heartbreaking, but it is also outrageous. He continued to say through a statement that veterans can not be treated carelessly and questioned where the accountability was.
HIV and Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted when blood from an infected person enters the body of an individual that is not infected. While there is no guarantee that any of the 600 patients are infected, the VA is not taking any chances.
By Tammy Marie Rose
Photo Courtesy Tomah VA