The Tulsa dentist accused of potentially exposing thousands of patients to HIV and hepatitis spoke out through his attorney Thursday. In a statement, Dr. W. Scott Harrington's attorney said, "his previous record with the dental board is impeccable. He is taking the recent allegations very seriously and is fully cooperating with the Oklahoma dental board."
But our call to the dental board Thursday revealed disturbing new information.
The board says it has no record of Harrington's dental assistant, Terry Waugh Valega, because she was never licensed by the state, which wouldn't have been necessary to perform regular dental assistant duties. Assistant Lisa Young had an expanded duty permit to allow her to do X-rays only, in addition to normal duties, but the board says both women were illegally performing dentistry and IV sedations.
This is more troubling news for the hundreds who have been tested, and are waiting to find out if they're infected, but we met a patient who knew she had been exposed to the potentially lethal viruses, and chose not to get tested.
"He jeopardized my health and he jeopardized thousands of other people's health," said Kelsie Simmons.
Simmons said she had her wisdom teeth removed at Scott Harrington's office in Owasso.
"I had to be put under, and the nurses actually set up my laughing gas and my IV. I was already nervous to begin with," Simmons said.
She said, a few days later, she got a dry socket and called the clinic with questions.
"They accused me of smoking, and that's why I got my dry socket. I don't smoke. I've never smoked, and they were just completely rude," Simmons said.
She went back to her primary dentist, instead.
When the state dentistry board went public with accusations of dirty sterilization practices and cross-contamination with needles and medicine vials, Simmons said she was crushed.
"I was upset and it kind of hit me, like, 'Do I have something?' I really did, I started to cry, I really got upset," Simmons said.
But she didn't get tested. She said she realized she couldn't be infected, because she donates blood several times a year. Blood banks like the Red Cross and Oklahoma Blood Institute screen your blood each time you donate. The screening covers a dozen individual tests, including hepatitis B and C and HIV. If a donor ever tests positive, the organization notifies you shortly after donating.
Simmons said she has never been notified, in all her years of donating.
She said she still expected more from Harrington than a brief response that didn't address the allegations against him.
"What I would want to hear from him is an apology, maybe an explanation as to why he ran his practice that way," Simmons said. "As a patient, we don't know the proper procedure. We haven't gone to dentist school, and so I think he owes it to everybody."
Since Saturday, 1,400 former patients have taken advantage of free HIV and hepatitis testing through the Tulsa County Health Department, so far.
Blood banks still suggest getting tested through Tulsa County.