WISCONSIN – A dentist, whose identity remains unknown, exposed around 600 veterans to conditions like HIV and Hepatitis at a Veterans Affairs Department. The doctor refused to work using the medical equipment and sterilized tools, mandatory for everyone employed at the facility. As a result, he got moved to an administrative job in the office but then he resigned.
Specifically, in the city of Tomah, the dental doctor treated hundreds of veterans with his equipment over and over, cleaning them himself. Not only did he ignored the high risk of spreading Hepatitis B, C, and HIV within the people that seated in his room, but that the mandatory procedure was to make use of the disposable tools he was given.
A representative for the VA expressed on Friday that Tomah’s board of directives got the resignation letter from the doctor just the day before a Summary Review Board was supposed to meet. That board is a common figure when a firing approaches.
The irregularity got leaked when his assistant was not able to make it to the work and someone else filled in and reported what was happening.
A troubled past explains the present
It is not the first time this VA office has found itself amidst criticism and legal investigation because of the negligence of their employees, an accusation the VA department has faced nationwide. But the Wisconsin facility specifically is known for dramatically over-prescribing opiates to veterans, to the point the town is known with the nickname “Candyland.”
Firing employees that broke the rules, and even the law, has been a recurring failure for the Veterans Affair Department for a long time now. Around two hundred officers and employees of the department around the nation have been involved in incompetent, abusive and even illegal incidents like filling wait lists with false names, but only ten have gotten fired so far.
One of the saddest and most famous cases is the death of Jason Simcakoski, a 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran who died from a drug overdose while at the hospital in January 2015. It was reported he also got over prescripted and over provided with opioids. Records indicate that he had been prescribed and dosed with 13 medications, including several that cause respiratory depression, in a 24-hour period, resulting in the firing of the former Chief of Staff Dr. David Houlihan, nicknamed “The Candy Man.”
The outcome is unconventional
Diverse media outlets, politicians and public figures like the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Jonesville, who represents a district in Wisconsin, categorized the case as heartbreaking and outrageous. Senator Ron Johnson also joined the claims against the decision.
Victoria Brahm, acting medical director at the Center, released a statement on the issue: “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.” Brahm also indicated they would not stop doing everything they can to ensure those responsible for this serious breach of patient trust are held accountable.
“We recently learned of a potential risk of infection to Veterans related to dental procedures in our dental clinic. These procedures were performed by a single VA practitioner who did not follow established infection control practices during October 2015 to October 2016,” a spokesperson said, on behalf of the Veterans Affairs Department, during a press conference.
Although acknowledging the situation, the spokesperson also said the risk of infections was low but for cautionary reasons they will be reaching out to all the patients of the dentist to offer them free testing. He also added that the dental practitioner could face administrative action still.
The investigation and its findings have sparked discussion and slamming from the general public from all over the internet that are just getting to realize the uncertainty of the professionalism of the hands they are putting their lives on. Besides the dentist not getting fired, people are focusing their demands on the solution the health care system is providing.
Patients that had bridge and crown work done are going to receive phone calls about the problem. The others affected will get letters. The veterans willing to schedule an appointment to get blood tested and find out about their conditions regarding HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C, have to call the center.
The center also has a designated follow-up testing site in Building 400, Room #1054 on the Tomah VA campus. It’s open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until noon.
Source: USA Today