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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

MORE FROM DAYTON DAILY NEWS

http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/nine-dayton-va-dental-patients-test-positive-for-hepatitis-1094957.html

Nine Dayton VA dental patients test positive for hepatitis

By Ben Sutherly, Staff Writer
Updated 12:10 AM Wednesday, March 2, 2011
DAYTON — At least nine patients who received dental care at the Dayton VA Medical Center have tested positive in preliminary tests for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, VA officials said Tuesday.
Since Feb. 8 the Dayton VA has contacted 527 of 535 veterans seen by a dentist who failed to change latex gloves and sterilize dental instruments properly between patients. Of 375 patients tested so far, there have been seven Hepatitis C cases, two Hepatitis B cases and no cases of HIV, Director Guy Richardson said.
None of the patients had been previously diagnosed, and further testing will be needed to confirm those infections, said Dr. Andrea Buck, the VA’s national director of medicine. Epidemiological testing will be used to determine if any confirmed cases resulted from exposure at the Dayton VA dental clinic, but Buck said, “We may never know the answer to that question.”
None of the nine preliminary positives have been confirmed, a process that takes a week or so, said Dr. Andrea Buck, the VA’s national director of medicine. Epidemiological testing will be used to determine if any confirmed cases resulted from exposure at the Dayton VA dental clinic, but Buck admitted, “We may never know the answer to that question.” Those tests will take months, she added.
Administrative actions were initiated against three employees, including the dentist, Dwight M. Pemberton, who may have infected patients from 1992 to July 2010. But Pemberton, 81, retired Feb. 11. As a result, he no longer faces administrative action, Richardson said. “I’m not aware of any legal requirement preventing someone from retiring” during an active investigation, he said.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, called news of possible infections “outrageous” in a statement. “I intend to continue to follow this process as it unfolds and have taken steps to meet with (VA) Secretary (Eric) Shinseki on this matter. Our veterans deserve better, and I will demand that the Secretary see that through.”
Richardson on Tuesday apologized to veterans.
Richardson said the VA will respond aggressively in providing free screenings as well as care to those who may have been exposed to blood-borne pathogens while receiving care from a VA dentist between 1992 and July 2010.
Asked what responsibility he bears for the lack of oversight of the dental clinic, Richardson said, “I’m charged as the leader of the facility to make sure we provide high quality, safe veteran care. ... I will continue to be committed to achieving that mission as long as I’m in this position.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, earlier this month stopped short of calling for Richardson to step down, saying he first wanted to know the full extent of what happened. More details are expected to be disclosed in a yet-to-be-released VA Office of Inspector General report.
“When something this serious happens, people who are responsible have to be held responsible,” Brown said. “It’s the responsibility of the dentist, but it’s the responsibility of the system that this happened.”
Buck said the Dayton VA’s response has shown leadership: “What we have seen in this response is a commitment to transparency.”
The VA is taking steps nationwide to ensure problems in Dayton aren’t repeated elsewhere, Buck said. For example, one of the VA’s own inspection controls — Systemwide Ongoing Assessment and Review Strategy — added a dental component.

Buck noted the Ohio State Dental Board declined Pemberton’s request to have his license retired. Such a step is typically not taken by the dental board unless an active investigation of that dentist is under way.
Dayton VA’s testing of veterans is estimated to cost $18,000 to $25,000.

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