Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Update: VA Dentist Implicated in Unhygienic Dental Practice and Spread of Hepatitis

Of course, there is more to the story.
Problems at the Dayton VA Medical Center’s dental clinic went far beyond Dr. Dwight Pemberton, the dentist whose poor infection control practices may have exposed 535 patients to such diseases as hepatitis and HIV from January 1992 to 
July 2010.

In sworn testimony given during a Veterans Affairs investigation, workers describe a poorly run, understaffed clinic, where supervisors tolerated inappropriate activities and cut corners, and workers were paralyzed by fear.

According to a post-investigation report, another of the clinic’s eight dentists allegedly broke teeth during extractions and performed unnecessary procedures. Working with that dentist, whose name hasn’t been obtained by the Dayton Daily News, “was just like watching a child be abused,” one worker told investigators.

Clinic dentists even took credit for being primary providers of dental work done by unlicensed students, who were permitted to practice without the required level of supervision, according to the report.

A former patient of Pemberton’s  said he received substandard care at the clinic during a visit five years ago. Thomas Woodson of Harrison Twp. told the Dayton Daily News Pemberton enthusiastically introduced him to his fellow dentists after Woodson told him he is a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and slave Sally Hemings. While Pemberton took keen interest in Woodson’s roots, Woodson went home with ill-fitting dentures that he soon quit wearing.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki acknowledged a “failure of leadership” in Dayton during a federal budget hearing earlier this month, during which he was asked why VA Medical Center Director Guy Richardson had received an $11,874 bonus at the end of federal fiscal 2010.

“I’m not going to try to describe why a bonus was sensible,” Shinseki said. “This went on for an extended period of time when it wasn’t brought to the attention of leadership, and I again fault that to a failure in leadership.”

Soon after, Richardson was reassigned to a VA regional headquarters job in Cincinnati, described by VA officials as a “lateral move” without a change in pay. Richardson received $167,328 in fiscal 2010.

The VA initially said nine veterans had tested newly positive in preliminary tests for hepatitis B or hepatitis C antibody, but on Friday cut that number to five.

Members of Congress have been unimpressed by the VA’s response to the scandal so far.
Oh yeah, there should be and will probably be a Congressional investigation.

But, also, why not have the federal government consider closing dental departments at the VA hospitals and contracting out care to the private sector? Does the Veterans Administration REALLY need dental departments in every major hospital in the country?

Time for the new GOP Congress to study the issue.

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