12 May Dentist accused of using dirty tools on patients, risking hepatitis infection
A dentist treating patients with hepatitis allegedly re-used the same dirty instruments on others.
Authorities have no idea how many people were potentially exposed to the disease when the incidents unfolded in February and March, 2014.
Sterilisation wasn’t part of the dentist’s procedure, according to a witness.
Instead, he rinsed his instruments in the sink, dried them with a paper towel and used them again on other patients.
The details emerged during a Health Practitioner’s Disciplinary Tribunal in Hamilton this week.
The dentist, who has interim name suppression, had a contract with a North Island prison and treated the prisoners at his Waikato practice.
It is not known whether the at-risk patients contracted hepatitis, and some of them are no longer in prison.
A Department of Corrections officer, who escorted prisoners to and from the dental practice, told the tribunal he was shocked at the hygiene standards.
He said prison environments are rife with infectious diseases and officers were trained to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
Officers had to be handcuffed to the prisoners at the clinic and sometimes blood would spray from the patients’ mouths onto their uniforms.
“On several occasions when I attended [the dentist’s] surgery, I only saw him use paper towels from the dispenser on the wall to wipe the tools and the instruments on the tray,” the officer said.
“At no time did I see [the dentist] or his assistant clean or sterilise those tools, including the drill, or take them away or replace them with any new tools.
“The paper hand towel dispenser was right next to the hand basin where patients were asked to spit and then they used those hand towels to wipe their mouths. The same sink was used by [the dentist] to rinse equipment used on prisoners and he would wipe it down with a paper towel.”