July 15, 2012
Dentist Exposed Thousands To Possible HIV Infection
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
An ongoing malpractice investigation centering on a Denver, Colorado oral surgeon has uncovered evidence that he reused syringes and needles, potentially putting thousands of patients at risk of contracting hepatitis or the HIV virus, state health officials revealed on Friday.
Officials at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have sent letters to 8,000 patients of dentist Stephen Stein, suggesting that they have themselves tested for the conditions after learning of "unsafe injection practices" at a pair of his clinics from September 1999 through June 2011, Keith Coffman of Reuters reported in a Saturday article.
According to Coffman, investigations looking into allegations involving Stein, who had his license suspended for an undisclosed reason last year, found that the dentist had reused needles and syringes at both his oral surgery and dental implant clinics -- a "violation of standard medical protocol."
Health department officials are advising any patient who had received any type of injection at Stein's facilities to undergo tests for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, Reuters said. They also found that the oral surgeon's records were incomplete, and there may be more patients who could have been exposed due to the syringe and needle reuse.
While the Colorado dental board would not elaborate on the original reason for the June 2011 decision by to suspend Stein's license, they told Michael Booth of the Denver Post that it was not because of the infection risk, which was unearthed during their probe.
The agreement between Stein and state officials says only that the dentists had "deliberately and willfully" violated the law, and Booth noted that the state attorney general contacted Denver police and the district attorney's office regarding the investigation back in April.
Dr. Christopher Urbina, executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told the Denver Post that officials at the dental board relayed allegations regarding the re-use of needles and syringes at Stein's offices on April 26. Since then, officials have been reviewing records and interviewing individuals at the doctor's practices before sending letters to the potentially affected patients.
"Lynn Kimbrough, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver, said Stein was already the target of a criminal probe for possible prescription fraud before the allegations emerged about reusing syringes," said Coffman. "She said no criminal charges had so far been filed."