The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 30, 2013

Patients of Oklahoma doctor line up for tests

TULSA, Okla. —  About 150 to 200 patients of a Tulsa oral surgeon accused of unsanitary practices queued outside a health clinic Saturday, hoping to discover whether they had been exposed to hepatitis or the virus that causes AIDS.

Letters began going out Friday to 7,000 patients who had seen Dr. W. Scott Harrington during the past six years, warning them that poor hygiene at his clinics created a public health hazard. The one-page letter said how and where to seek treatment but couldn’t explain why Harrington’s allegedly unsafe practices went on for so long.

Testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and the virus that causes AIDS began at 10 a.m. Saturday, but many arrived early and stood through torrential downpours.

Kari Childress, 38, showed up at the Tulsa Health Department North Regional Health and Wellness Center at 8:30 a.m., mainly because she was nervous.

“I just hope I don’t have anything,” said Childress, who had a tooth extracted at one of Harrington’s two clinics five months ago. “You trust and believe in doctors to follow the rules, and that’s the scariest part.”

Inspectors found a number of problems at the doctor’s clinics in Tulsa and suburban Owasso, according to the state Dentistry Board, which filed a 17-count complaint against Harrington pending an April 19 license revocation hearing. According to the complaint, needles were reinserted into drug vials after being used on patients, expired drugs were found in a medicine cabinet and dental assistants administered sedatives to patients, rather than the doctor.

One patient, Orville Marshall, said he didn’t meet Harrington until after he had two wisdom teeth pulled about five years ago at the Owasso clinic. A nurse inserted the IV for his anesthesia; Harrington was there when Marshall came to.

“It’s just really scary. It makes you doubt the whole system, especially with how good his place looked,” said Marshall, 37.

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