Hundreds Tested for HIV and Hepatitis After Visiting Dental Clinic

UPDATE | Health authorities are urging hundreds of patients of a far north Queensland dental clinic to be tested for H-I-V and hepatitis.

The Essential Dental for Life facility in Cairns has been temporarily closed as its infection control practices from March are investigated.

The practice was ordered to close on June 24 under a public health order.

A free screening clinic is being established for those potentially affected.

The Health Ombudsman and the Tropical Public Health Unit has taken action against Essential Dental for Life.

The health unit’s Dr Richard Gair said there is a risk of blood born infections, including HIV, being transmitted to over 500 patients seen since March 2018.

“The only risk of transmission would be if one of the patients had a disease and then the instruments were used between that patient and another patient without sterilisation, so the prevalence of those diseases entering the population is fairly low” he said.

Medical Services executive Dr Don Mackie said over 500 patients seen since March 2018, should be tested.

“There are three options, one is we will be contacting the patients we’ve identified. Two, people who have been at the practice can either call 13 Health for advice in terms of how they can get tested either at our free clinic or they can go to their GP” said Dr Mackie.

The owner of the clinic told the ABC there were issues with his record keeping of sterilisation but not his sterilisation practices.

EARLIER | Assessments by Tropical Public Health Unit (Cairns) and the Office of the Health Ombudsman have identified problems with infection control practices at a Cairns private dental clinic: Essential Dental for Life.

Dr Don Mackie, Executive Director of Medical Services, Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service said that the Tropical Public Health Unit (Cairns) had taken action under the Public Health Act to require Essential Dental for Life to cease providing dental services until proper infection control standards are met.

The Office of the Health Ombudsman has also taken immediate action to impose conditions on a dentist operating at the clinic, including requiring that the practitioner cease practising until such time as an audit is conducted to assess infection control, sterilisation processes and procedures.

Dr Mackie said investigations by public health officials raised concerns about inadequate infection control standards at the private clinic.

Patients of the practice are considered to have been placed at a low risk of being exposed to a blood-borne virus such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV from dental procedures performed at the dental practice.

“The risk of disease transmission is very small,” Dr Mackie said.

“We are notifying the public as investigations have revealed potential ongoing problems.

“Although we have no indication that any infectious or transmissible disease has been contracted by patients, it is important people be tested.”

Tropical Public Health Unit (Cairns) will identify and contact people who have been treated at the private clinic since March 2018 to discuss testing for blood borne diseases, including viruses such as Hepatitis C.