The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

May 3, 2013

OJA trying to find juvenile patients of dentist

TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma's Office of Juvenile Affairs said Thursday it is working to track down at least 191 patients who while locked up at a state juvenile facility were treated by a Tulsa oral surgeon now being investigated for unsanitary conditions at his clinics.

The agency collected records dating to 1995 — the year it was formed — to generate the list it provided to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which is sending letters to the patients advising them to contact the state health department to arrange to be tested for hepatitis and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The 191 juvenile patients saw Harrington at his clinic and were all were housed at the L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs, which was the only maximum-security juvenile facility in the state, OJA spokeswoman Paula Christiansen told The Associated Press. The center closed in 2011 after years of turmoil.

In late March, authorities urged Harrington's roughly 7,000 patients to get tested after finding unsanitary conditions at his two Tulsa-area clinics, including varying cleaning procedures for equipment, needles re-inserted in drug vials after their initial use, drug vials used on multiple patients and no written infection-protection procedure.

More than 3,700 patients have been tested so far.

On Thursday, the Tulsa Health Department reported that four more patients of Harrington's tested positive for hepatitis C, bringing the total to 69 since testing began. One more patient tested positive for hepatitis B, bringing that total to four. One or two patients have tested positive for HIV.

It's not clear if the patients got the diseases at the clinic. Officials noted in their investigation that Harrington's staff had said they knew several patients came to the clinic already infected. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says spreading disease at a dental clinic is extremely rare, with just three known cases in two decades.

A message left for Harrington's attorney seeking comment was not returned Thursday evening. Previously, his attorney said Harrington was cooperating with investigators and noted that his previous record with the state's dental board was "impeccable."

Several health officials did not know whether the 191 juvenile patients were included in the 7,000 who originally were notified. Tulsa Health Department spokeswoman Kaitlin Snider said Thursday she was unaware if her agency could cross-match the names on the two lists.

"There were minors accounted for, but I don't know how many patient notification letters went to juveniles," Snider said. "We were only able to contact patients going back to 2007. If they had seen Dr. Harrington after that, they would have been captured on the list."

Leslea Bennett-Webb, a spokeswoman for the state health department, said the master list of patients includes adults and juveniles who were incarcerated, but she couldn't confirm where they were locked up or for how long.

Harrington, who has been a dentist for 36 years, voluntarily surrendered his credentials on March 20. He faces an Aug. 16 license revocation hearing.


Associated Press writer Jeannie Nuss contributed to this story from Little Rock, Ark.


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