Ohio VA dental clinic's infection control practices under review

By DrBicuspid Staff

November 23, 2010 -- Another U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) dental clinic has come under scrutiny for possible infection control issues.

The Dayton VA Medical Center's dental clinic in Ohio was temporarily closed from August 19 to September 10 after employees raised concerns about infection control practices during an internal VA panel review of clinic operations in July, according to Todd Sledge, a spokesman for the VA Healthcare System of Ohio. It was reopened September 19 after the staff was updated regarding infection control requirements.

"With the volume of work that goes through the Dayton clinic, we wanted to make sure the concerns were thoroughly investigated to determine if there was any basis to them and if they were accurate," Sledge told DrBicuspid.com.

Veterans who needed dental work were directed to other facilities while the clinic was closed. "Obviously, when you close a clinic, people are aware of it, and we wanted to make sure veterans are apprised of the situation," Sledge said.

An October 20 e-mail to Dayton VA employees discusses a "dental initiative" that could involve 2,000 veterans and spouses, and could draw "scrutiny from the media," according to a story in the Dayton Daily News, but Sledge could not say how many patients may be involved.

The VA's Office of Inspector General received a November 19 letter seeking a review of the clinic's infection control issues from Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. He sent the letter after being notified that the clinic had been closed, said Akaka spokeswoman Gina Drioane.

The inspector general's office confirmed that it is conducting a review in response to Akaka's request. A healthcare inspector is trying to determine the scope of the review, spokeswoman Joanne Moffett told DrBicuspid.com.

The VA wants to complete its investigation before deciding whether to contact veterans and spouses about undergoing tests to determine if they were infected at the dental clinic, Sledge said.

In response to these developments, the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) issued this statement:

Sen. Brown is outraged over reports of improper conduct at the Dental Clinic of the Dayton VA Medical Center. As soon as he was aware of the situation, his office received a briefing by the VA. Sen. Brown sent a letter to [Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric] Shinseki demanding answers and asking the VA to take action to ensure safety in clinics. He will be personally calling VA Secretary Shinseki next week to follow-up.

Sledge added: "Secretary Shinseki has asked us to be more transparent, so we're trying to do that."

In June it was revealed that more than 1,800 patients who went to a VA dental clinic in St. Louis between February 2009 and March 2010 may have been exposed to hepatitis and HIV due to improper cleaning of dental instruments.

Copyright © 2010 DrBicuspid.com

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Last Updated kk 11/23/2010 1:57:46 PM