Medical board wants criminal charges against Okla. dentist

Inset: A 1977 license picture of Dr. Scott Harrington. Health officials urged thousands of patients of the oral surgeon to undergo hepatitis and HIV testing, saying unsanitary conditions at his Oklahoma clinics made him a "menace to the public health." KOTV/AP Photo/Oklahoma Board of Dentistry

TULSA, Okla. The head of Oklahoma's dental board says her office wants prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against a Tulsa oral surgeon at the center of a health scare.

Susan Rogers told The Associated Press that she met with Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris on Monday to discuss whether Dr. W. Scott Harrington is criminally liable.

Inspectors said they found unsafe and unsanitary practices at Harrington's Tulsa-area clinics. Letters were sent to 7,000 patients, urging them to be screened for hepatitis and the virus that causes AIDS.

The complaint filed last week called Harrington a "menace to the public health."

According to CBS Affiliate KOTV, the state's Dental Board said Harrington's office had two sets of equipment -- one for patients they knew had infectious diseases, and one for those who did not. The equipment used on infected patients was cleaned by dipping in bleach, which made instruments corrode, becoming rusty and porous - and making them nearly impossible to sterilize later.

The Board also said that, although sterilization machines should be tested monthly, Harrington's office hadn't tested its equipment in years.

Court records also show that Harrington (who also owns a home in Phoenix, Ariz.) has been sued for medical malpractice and negligence. He was also named in a paternity suit in 1997. Many cases were settled out of court.

KOTV also reports that the Tulsa County Health Department has set up a free testing clinic in North Tulsa for former patients of Dr. Harrington.

Officials are advising anyone who was a patient of Harrington's at his offices in Tulsa or Owasso to get tested for HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

Over the weekend, hundreds of people waited in line to get tested.

Information is available by calling the health department's hotline at (918) 595-4500, or by visiting their web site.

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