A Dentist At A VA Hospital May Have Infected Hundreds Of Veterans With HIV


A Veterans Affairs hospital has come under fire in Tomah, WI for potentially exposing nearly 600 patients with HIV, Hepatitis B, or Hepatitis C. The culprit, one of four dentists at the facility, has been removed from treating patients after it was revealed that he wasn’t cleaning instruments properly. The hospital is in process of notifying all of the dentist’s veteran patients and testing them for life-threatening viruses. In addition, the hospital has offered free treatment to any veteran who turns up with one of these infections.

The lapse in proper protocol was discovered in late October, and the VA firmly insists that there’s not yet any known spread of infection, but they’re acting “out of an abundance of caution” while noting that the dentist’s violation of regulations was “purposeful”:

According to acting Medical Center Director Victoria Brahm, the dentist was using his own equipment for routine dental exams, then cleaning it and using it again. This violates VA rules, which require use of disposable equipment to ensure sterility.

“It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations,” Brahm said at a news conference Tuesday. “During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure.”

Brahm notes that the facility’s current state leaves room for improvement, but the hospital remains committed to its mission of providing the best care possible for veterans. The dentist in question has been placed on administrative duty pending a meeting about his professional fate.

In 2010, a St. Louis VA hospital came under scrutiny in a disturbingly similar incident where about 1,800 veterans were potentially exposed to both HIV and hepatitis. Again, dental technicians failed to clean instruments properly.

(Via Miami Herald & CNN)