TULSA, Okla. – Hundreds of patients of an Oklahoma oral surgeon accused of unsanitary practices showed up at a health clinic Saturday, looking to find out whether they were 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. The Tulsa Health Department said 420 people were tested Saturday at its North Regional Health and Wellness Center. Screenings resume Monday.
Kari Childress, 38, showed up 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, not the doctor, administered sedatives to patients.
An instrument set reserved for use on patients with infectious diseases was rusty, preventing its effective sterilization, and the office autoclave – a pressurized cleaner – was used improperly and hadn’t been certified as effective in at least six years, according to the complaint.
Attempts to reach Harrington have been unsuccessful. No one answered the door Thursday at his Oklahoma home, which property records show is worth more than $1 million.
Property and tax records show Harrington owns another residence in Carefree, Ariz., in an area of upscale homes tucked into in the boulder-strewn mountains north of Phoenix.
Harrington’s malpractice lawyer, Jim Secrest II, did not respond to phone messages left Thursday or Friday. A message at Harrington’s office in a tony section of Tulsa said it was closed and an answering service referred callers to the Tulsa Health Department.