VA dentist resigns after possibly infecting 600 veterans with HIV and hepatitis

By Daniel Uria   |   Dec. 3, 2016 at 2:05 PM

TOMAH, Wis., Dec. 3 (UPI) -- An unidentified Department of Veterans Affairs dentist in Wisconsin resigned after possibly exposing hundreds of patients to HIV and hepatitis B and C.

Officials at Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center announced Friday the dentist, who placed veterans at risk by reusing his tools, resigned after initially moving to an administrative role, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

"Although we cannot prevent the dentist from resigning while administrative actions are pending, we are continuing reporting procedures to the state licensing board and the National Practitioner Data Bank," acting medical director at the center Victoria Brahm said. "We will not stop doing all we can to ensure those responsible for this serious breach of patient trust are held accountable."

The Tomah VA launched an investigation after a fill-in assistant reported the dentist had been using his own medical tools and would clean and reuse them, violating VA rules, according to CNN.

"It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations," Brahm said. "During all of the orientation, he used our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure."

The dentist worked at the facility and treated 592 patients who were notified they may have been exposed to the diseases.

"The most important part is the actual risk of infection is low here -- it is out of an abundance of caution that we are doing this," Tomah VA spokesman Matthew Gowan said.

The dentist was expected to appear in front of a review board as he faces administrative proceedings prior to his resignation.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and House Speaker Paul Ryan, both of Wisconsin, called for the dentist's resignation after it was announced he would remain in an administrative position.

"This news is not just heartbreaking; it's outrageous," Ryan said. "How can our veterans be treated so carelessly and where is the accountability?"

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