VA Dentist Put 592 Vets at Risk of HIV, Hepatitis

'He knew exactly what he was doing'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2016 6:09 PM CST
VA Dentist Put 592 Vets at Risk of HIV, Hepatitis
Stock image   (Getty Images/vanyi)

(Newser) – The VA is offering free testing to nearly 600 veterans in Wisconsin who may have been infected with hepatitis or HIV by a rogue dentist, Law Newz reports. The dentist providing care at the VA in Tomah was using his own dental instruments. And while the dentist sterilized the tools between uses, VA rules say he was supposed to use disposable instruments and throw them away after each use. Acting medical center director Victoria Brahm tells WEAU that the dentist's actions were "purposeful." "He knew exactly what he was doing and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure," she says. The dentist was using his own tools between October 2015 and October 2016. An assistant subbing for the dentist's normal assistant ratted him out to authorities.

On Tuesday, the VA started contacting the 592 vets who received treatment from the dentist, offering free testing for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV, the La Crosse Tribune reports. There have been no reports of infections stemming from dental work at the Tomah VA. “Out of an abundance of caution it’s still the proper thing to do," a VA spokesperson says regarding free testing. The dentist is no longer treating patients but is still working at the VA; he may face criminal charges. His regular dental assistant is also being investigated. The Tomah VA was recently under investigation for over prescribing painkillers in connection with the deaths of at least two vets. "I don't think they are paying them enough to keep good support staff ... so we suffer," one vet tells WEAU. (Read more Department of Veterans Affairs stories.)

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