County still seeks patients in dental scare

About half of those possibly exposed to hepatitis, HIV found
2013-04-20T00:00:00Z 2013-04-25T10:58:06Z County still seeks patients in dental scareStephanie Innes Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Pima County health officials say they've contacted nearly half of the patients who may have been exposed to hepatitis or HIV at a local dental clinic.

And on Friday, department officials released all of the records relating to the issue, including correspondence between clinic dentist Dr. Victor Trujillo and both state and county health departments. Through his lawyer, Trujillo has insisted that he tried to contact the county about a possible problem three years ago and that no one listened. The county says none of the letters from 2010 gave them a reason to believe a public health risk existed.

The health department is urging anyone who was a patient at the now-closed T Dental Clinic in Marana between January and July 2010 to get tested for blood-borne diseases.

Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Francisco García says the risk that someone has been contaminated is very low, but that isn't zero, either.

The T Dental Clinic closed in July 2010.

Officials say they've managed to contact 74 of the patients and advised them to see their primary- care physician for testing for hepatitis and HIV. Four uninsured patients were referred for free testing at the health department.

No cases of transmission have been identified.

The clinic, at 3662 W. Ina Road, had a piece of dental equipment that was not properly installed and could have contaminated patients with medical waste from other patients, officials said.

The records that the county released Friday confirmed the contact with Trujillo in December 2010.

In one email, Trujillo reported to a county official about possible "bacteria contamination throughout the whole fire sprinkler system." In another he warns that anyone who moved equipment from the office may have been exposed to pathogens from the vacuum system. There does not appear to be any direct mention that former patients were in danger, though Trujillo and his lawyer insist health officials should have taken action based on what he told them.

Health department officials say they reviewed the correspondence and found allegations of equipment that was not properly installed, and also issues with code compliance. But officials also say that they did not find any reason to think there was patient exposure, which is why there was no attempt to contact patients three years ago.

The county does not regulate medical or dental offices. Dentists are regulated by the Board of Dental Examiners.

Trujillo is involved in a dispute with contractors from Bert's Electric and Plumbing who installed the dental equipment, and litigation between them is pending. Bert's, which filed the initial lawsuit for an unpaid bill, denies any wrongdoing. Trujillo responded to that lawsuit with a countersuit.

In a case much larger in scope, dozens of people in Oklahoma have recently tested positive for hepatitis after a dental office in suburban Tulsa was found to have improperly sterilized equipment, including needles. Officials in Oklahoma said the potential contamination occurred over six years and up to 7,000 patients could have been exposed.

On StarNet: Find more science, technology and health stories at azstarnet.com/science

More Information

People who were patients at the T Dental Clinic in Marana between January 2010 and July 2010 who have questions, or may need a referral on where to get tested for blood-borne diseases, are advised to speak with the Pima County Health Department by calling 243-7808 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at sinnes@azstarnet.com or 573-4134. On Twitter: @stephanieinnes

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...