“He brought in his own dental burs and cleaned them with Virex solution, salt and a wipe, which is nothing we endorse.” (Victoria Brahm, Tomah VA acting director)
We have now learned that an irresponsible dentist, employed at a Veterans Medical Center in Wisconsin, may well have endangered as many as 600 patients over the past year, because he routinely refused to follow proper instrument sterilization protocols.
The careless misbehavior of the dentist, who is as yet unnamed, was revealed in a ‘Systemic failures’ at Wisconsin Veterans Affairs hospital – Senate report in October.
To their credit, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported publicly last Tuesday that one of their staff dentists at the VA facility in Tomah, had failed to use sterilized dental tools, and as a result, 592 patients might have been infected with of hepatitis B and C, and/or HIV diseases.
The dentist, who was hired in October 2015, was observed by dental assistants “reusing drill bits” without proper sterilization. The standard protocol nationwide is to use only disposable drill bits, which are destroyed after each use. In the few clinics where reusable drill bits are still used, they are required to be sterilized in what is known as an ‘autoclave’ steam device, for patient safety.
The case was brought to the VA administration’s attention by a new dental assistant, who replaced that dentist’s original aide. The assistant who had worked with the doctor for the longer period of time is now being investigated for ignoring dangerous medical practices.
The La Crosse Tribune reported that there have been no reports of infections yet, and the VA will certainly provide treatment to any veterans that are found to be infected.
“The VA is trying to be transparent,” says Victoria Bahm, “and we are taking extreme measures.”
A medical review committee is expected to convene Monday to determine appropriate disciplinary measures against the doctor, who was placed on ‘non-patient-care’ assignment until the case is decided. And because the dentist is licensed in Texas, the VA also notified the state licensing board there.
Wisconsin state and U.S. government prosecutors are also assessing the case for potential criminal charges.
The potential infections are not the first embarrassment at this hospital. They have dealt with numerous other scandals – some of which involved patient deaths. In 2014, Jason Simcakoski, a 35 year-old former U.S. Marine, died after taking a mixture of medications administered by doctors. The Tomah Wisconsin hospital is actually referred to as “Candy Land” locally, because of its reputation for over-prescribing narcotics.
Here’s a bit more on this preposterous case: