DENTAL CLINIC INFECTION CONTROL PROBLEMS SERVE AS POTENT COMPLIANCE REMINDER
Background | Relevant Dental Resources
An apparent breach of standardized practice related to dental instrument reprocessing occurred at the John Cochran Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC) in St. Louis, MO. The facility mailed notification letters to 1,812 veterans treated at the dental clinic between February 2009 and March 2010 stating their internal quality inspections determined that some instrument processing steps for dental instruments were not in compliance with their standard policies, creating a low risk of exposure to hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus and HIV. In a video interview, Dr. Gina Michael, a spokesperson for the VAMC, said that dental instruments were sterilized but the VA standardized sequence of instrument processing was not followed.
A CBSnews.com article on July 1, 2010 reported the VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel saying that the problem arose because workers prewashing dental equipment failed to use a detergent before the equipment was sterilized allowing for a "phenomenally remote" chance that sterilization might not have been effective. The VA issued a press release on July 1 indicating that the lessons learned from the St. Louis VAMC are applied VA-wide.
In a related story at the Dayton VA Medical Center, an employee raised concerns about infection control practices at the dental clinic while an internal VA panel was reviewing clinic operations in late July. The allegations involved improper use of protective gear such as gloves, as well as the inappropriate use of burs. The VA closed the clinic for three weeks to investigate.
These news stories serve as a reminder that proper procedures to prevent infections should be in place, and, importantly, that dental workers be educated to ensure the procedures are understood and followed. OSAP encourages dental professionals to take the time to regularly reinforce best practices for preventing infections and ensuring the safety of patients and the dental team.
OSAP has assembled targeted educational resources for the dental team on instrument processing (see table below). Please let us know if you can suggest additional tools and we will continue to build this resource.
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