Poor cleaning and sterilisation practices at four dental surgeries in Sydney, involving 12 dentists, has lead to the suspension of six and health authorities urging patients to seek medical advice over fears that they could have contracted HIV and hepatitis.
According to New South Wales Health concerns exist that up to 11,000 Australian dental patients could have recently been exposed to life threatening contagious diseases when hygiene practices were breached at four clinics in Sydney.
NSWH, in a press statement, confirmed that 12 dentists from four surgeries were accused of poor cleaning and equipment sterilisation practices and advised patients to get blood tests for HIV as well as Hepatitis A, B and C as a precaution.
Althouh Jeremy McAnulty, NSW Health director of health protection, said no cases had been found so far and the risk of transmission was low, there was concern about people who had undergone invasive procedures.
“It’s important to stress we have no evidence of infection at this point, that no transmission has occurred,” he said.
“But the experts have been concerned in light of the reports of the problems with infection control at these facilities, that a risk is there.
“We are hopeful there won’t be transmissions and the risk is thought to be low but it’s best for people to know their status because there are treatments available for infections.”
The scare was sparked by a complaint about one of the practices in November last year and subsequent investigations revealed “significant” safety breaches at the clinic and others, said Shane Fryer of the Dental Council of NSW.
So far six dentists have been suspended and another six have had conditions placed on their licences.
One of those suspended, Robert Starkenburg, admitted to the Sydney Daily Telegraph he had been “behind the times” but said he had adopted new protocols since being investigated.
“I don’t infect my patients but I didn’t have a spick and span office like the new guys,” said the 75-year-old. “But I’m spikko now.”