After news that 7,000 patients were potentially exposed to HIV from a dental office, a community in Tulsa is reeling in shock, fear and horror at the possibility of a health crisis.
Joyce Baylor, 69, visited W. Scott Harrington, the oral surgeon at the center of this horrific nightmare, to have a tooth removed a year and a half ago, and never imagined her health could be in jeopardy. She said she didn't notice anything unusual about the office's cleanliness during her visit, but it was only because she wasn't on guard about sanitation, trusting that a certified doctor like Harrington would be taking the right precautions.
"I am devastated now that this has come about," Baylor told Metro from her home in Tulsa. "I always felt comfortable when I go to doctor, never thinking anything negative because you are in a doctor's office and they took an oath to take care of [their patients], but apparently something went wrong."
Baylor made an appointment to be tested for hepatitis and HIV this coming Monday after learning from the local news that she could be at risk. She has already heard of one person in her community testing positive for HIV since news broke that Harrington's patients as far back as 2007 may have been exposed.
"I can't understand. He is a doctor — I'm sure he makes money," Baylor said. "Why would he need to use rusty needles? I can't understand why he would allow this. It's unbelievable."
Investigators said they uncovered horrific conditions inside Harrington's dental office after learning that someone may have contracted hepatitis C there. Dentistry board members said they felt sick to their stomachs after observing unsanitized tools and rusty needles. It's also alleged that unlicensed employees were performing intravenous sedation on patients.
Harrington told investigators many of his patients had HIV. He has since surrendered his dental license. The health department is in the process of notifying by letter more than 7,000 of his former patients that they should be tested.
For now, Baylor must anxiously await the results of her HIV and hepatitis tests. She said this entire experience has made her question visits to other doctors. Baylor said she is sorry to see this happen to Harrington, but that he should face consequences under the law.
"This is negligence – so whatever charges that apply to what he has done, I suppose he should pay the price," Baylor said.
"Who can you trust if you can't trust your doctor?"