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Probe of Okla. dentist could last months longer

TULSA, Okla. (AP) – It could take several more months until an investigation into an Oklahoma oral surgeon accused of maintaining filthy office conditions is finished because patients are still coming forward in the case, a state official said Wednesday.

Oklahoma Board of Dentistry Executive Director Susan Rogers told The Associated Press in an interview that her agency continues to receive complaints from former patients of Dr. W. Scott Harrington _ nearly seven months after investigators shuttered his two Tulsa-area clinics.

Rogers also said it was possible that a criminal case could be brought against Harrington, but she noted that depositions of potential witnesses had yet to begin. Multiple civil lawsuits have been filed against Harrington since the public health scare began this spring.

State health inspectors shut down Harrington’s clinic March 28 after finding unsanitary conditions. A 17-count complaint filed by the state said officials found rusty instruments, potentially contaminated drug vials and improper use of a machine designed to sterilize tools at Harrington’s offices.

“There’s no telling how much longer because we are still getting complaints,” Rogers said. “It’s going to be at least several months more. It could last for a long time.

“I hoped to try to resolve this quickly, but there are so many facets to this deal it’s not even funny,” Rogers said.

Health officials urged tests for 7,000 of Harrington’s patients to determine whether they had contracted an infectious disease. Of 4,202 tested at state clinics, 89 tested positive for hepatitis C, five for hepatitis B and four for the virus that causes AIDS.

In only one of those cases was it proven that the illness was contracted at a clinic, health officials said. Last month, investigators said Harrington was responsible for the nation’s first transmission of hepatitis C between patients in a dental office.

Harrington, who is cooperating with the probe, had been a dentist for 36 years before voluntarily giving up his license March 20. He faces a January hearing before the state’s dental board.

A phone message seeking comment left with James Secrest II, Harrington’s attorney in Tulsa, was not immediately returned Wednesday. Previously, Secrest issued a statement saying Harrington’s record with the state dentistry board was “impeccable.”

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