TULSA, Okla. — The Tulsa oral surgeon at the center of a public health scare involving thousands of patients waived his right Friday to a hearing before the state's dentistry board, agreeing not to practice medicine at least until August, officials said.
The decision by Dr. W. Scott Harrington comes a week ahead of the temporary suspension hearing, where he could have lost his medical license.
Harrington, who has been a dentist for 36 years, voluntarily surrendered his credentials on March 20. He now faces an Aug. 16 license revocation hearing.
"No one has enough facts at this point," said the board's executive director, Susan Rogers, who added that a delay figures to give her investigators more time to assemble their case. "We need to do more follow up and see where we are."
Board President Dr. Brad Hoopes called Harrington's decision "prudent," explaining that there would be little benefit to his case if he went ahead with the hearing next week when both parties are still investigating.
A message left Friday with Harrington's attorney, Jim Secrest II, was not returned, and a receptionist at his law practice said he would be out until next week.
Last week, Secrest said Harrington was cooperating with investigators and noted that his previous record with the dental board was "impeccable."
Health officials last month urged 7,000 patients of Harrington's to be tested for possible exposure to hepatitis and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, after finding unsanitary conditions at his Tulsa and Owasso clinics.
The board branded Harrington a "menace to the public health" in a 17-count complaint that alleges his practice had varying cleaning procedures for its equipment. Investigators said needles were re-inserted in drug vials after their initial use, drug vials were used on multiple patients and the office had no written infection-protection procedure.
Also, dental assistants performed some tasks reserved to a licensed dentist, such as administering IV sedation. A device used to sterilize equipment hadn't undergone required monthly tests in at least six years.