Dentist at VA hospital improperly cleans tools, puts almost 600 patients at risk for infection

A dentist working at the Tomah (Wis.) Veterans Affairs Medical Center put nearly 600 patients at risk for infection by not following proper sterilization protocols.

The dentist subsequently resigned after state politicians expressed outrage at the dentist's continued employment after the hospital announced the lapse in sterilization protocols, according to the Journal Sentinel.

On Nov. 29, Victoria Brahm, acting director of the VA hospital, announced the VA was in the process of notifying 592 veterans treated by the dentist from October 2015 to October 2016 about potential exposure to hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV. The VA is offering these patients free screenings for these illnesses and will provide treatment for those found to be infected. On Dec. 2, Ms. Brahm reported the dentist had resigned prior to a summary review board meeting to determine if firing was warranted, according to the Journal Sentinel.

The former VA dentist was reportedly using his own tools, cleaning them and reusing them, thereby violating the VA's regulations, which call for the use of sterile and disposable equipment.

"During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment," said Ms. Brahm at a news conference, according to the Sentinel. "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."

According to the Sentinel, the VA referred the case to the inspector general to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

More articles on infection control: 
How does hospital patient room design affect HAI rates? 
New SSI guidance emphasizes patients' role in infection prevention 
Infectious diseases expert panels: Adults aged 65+ years at heightened risk from respiratory infections

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