The Tulsa dentist accused of unsanitary and unsafe practices that may have exposed thousands to blood-borne diseases has broken his silence.
James K. Secrest, a Tulsa attorney who represents Dr. W. Scott Harrington, released the following brief statement on Harrington's behalf Wednesday morning:
"For almost 35 years, Dr. Harrington has provided Oklahomans with dedicated oral surgical care. 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. At this time, out of respect for his patients and the sensitivity of the issues, Dr. Harrington will make no further comment on this matter."
It was the first response from Harrington's camp since the allegations levied against his practice were made public a week ago.
The Tulsa County Health Department announced last week that it is in the process of notifying 7,000 Oklahoma dental patients who visited Harrington's offices in Tulsa and Owasso, urging them to be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
An investigation began after a patient of Harrington's, with no known risk factors, became infected with hepatitis C during a time dental work was done at Harrington's office.
A complaint filed with the Oklahoma Dental Board said Harrington and his staff told investigators that a "high population of known infectious disease carrier patients" received dental care from him. The investigation found the device used to sterilize all instruments wasn't working properly, and hadn't been tested in at least six years, the complaint said.
One of the board's 17 allegations is that Harrington's office used bleach to clean instruments, which investigators said were rusty. "The CDC has determined that rusted instruments are porous and cannot be properly sterilized," the Dental Board complaint said.
The doctor also reportedly used outdated drugs. Investigators found one vial found had an expiration date of 1993.
Harrington had been licensed to practice in Oklahoma since the 1970s, but surrendered his license on March 20 and is no longer practicing, according to officials. He faces an April hearing to determine the fate of his license.
The investigation into Harrington's practices is ongoing, which could include criminal charges. A top official with the Oklahoma State Department of Health met with Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris earlier this week to discuss prosecuting Harrington.
The Associated Press reported on Saturday that besides his residence in Green Country, Harrington owns a home in an upscale neighborhood in Carefree, Ariz., and was spotted there recently.
Former patients have been lining up at free testing clinics in Tulsa since Saturday.