Dentist asks patients to get tested after 'potential risk'

KING 5's Elisa Hahn reports.

BELLEVUE -- A woman has claimed she contracted Hepatitis C during a routine dental cleaning at International Community Health Services in Bellevue.

Sandra, who declined to disclose her last name to protect her privacy, said she was contacted by the dentist office in early June asking her to have her primary care doctor contact them. After a series of blood tests, she found out she had Hepatitis C.

“I can't believe that this can happen,” she said. “That I have a utensil in my mouth that was in someone else’s mouth that had diseases on it. It shouldn't happen.”

ICHS CEO Teresita Batayloa said about four months ago, dentists and hygienists noticed packaging on tools sterilized on site didn't have proper seals.

“About 4 months ago, our Bellevue manager could not find documentation verifying sterilization of some dental equipment at our Bellevue clinic. We were able to identify the period of time when the batch of equipment without verification was used on patients. Though we assessed the risk of contamination to be low, ICHS decided to act transparently and exercise caution by notifying around 12 patients of the potential risk, and asked them to get tested by our clinic or their own doctor at our expense,” ICHS said in a statement.

Batayola later said their office contacted 17 patients who may have been exposed to contaminated dental equipment. A dentist and hygienist noticed that "the vacuum seal was not perfect" on the dental tools.

Batayola said, "the machines have been checked and tested, to make sure it doesn't happen again."  

“We walk in there feeling safe. I'm not ever going to feel the same way about the dentist especially,” Sandra said.

ICHS cannot confirm the woman's claim that she contracted Hepatitis C at their Bellevue office. 

Batayloa said they did not inform county or state health departments, as required by law, because of "the small number of patients impacted."

The state's Department of Health said it has labeled this as a priority investigation.

Copyright 2016 KING


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