Nearly 600 veterans who received care at the Tomah VA may have been infected with several types of disease due to violations in infection control procedures.
VA administrators made the announcement Tuesday afternoon at a press conference.
The Tomah VA says it’s in the process of notifying 592 veterans that they may be infected with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, or HIV after they received care from one particular dental provider.
Acting Medical Center Director Victoria Brahm said the dentist was using his own equipment, then cleaning it and reusing it, which violates the VA’s regulations.
The Tomah VA says it uses sterile and disposable equipment.
The VA says he did this for one year, from October 2015 through October 2016.
It came to light when someone filling in for his assistant noticed what was going on and reported it.
That dentist has been removed from patient care and is now working in an administrative role.
The VA also referred the case to the inspector general for assessment of any criminal charges.
“It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations,” Brahm said. “During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure.”Brahm told reporters that the Tomah VA has made improvements but still has others to make.
“We have clear evidence that we are moving forward and the people that remain here are very vested and here for the mission of taking care of veterans,” she said. “There are pockets of improvement that need to occur they still need to I’ll be honest, and we are aware of where they are and we are dealing with them as quickly as we can.”
The VA is offering free screenings to those veterans and will provide free medical treatment to those who test positive for an infection.