HIV, Hepatitis Risk For Many Dental Patients In Sydney, Poor Hygiene Practices In Some Clinics To Be Blamed

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IN PHOTO: Ramjee Sao, 75, a roadside dentist and Hindu holy man, fixes the dentures prepared by him on a patient at his roadside clinic in the northern Indian city of Varanasi July 21, 2008. Sao said he provides a range of dental services from extractions, filling cavities and routine pain alleviation procedures to making and fitting a complete set of dentures. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash

As many as 12,000 people have been urged to undergo tests for HIV and hepatitis after authorities confirmed four dental clinics in Sydney are being investigated for poor hygiene practices. Reports indicated two senior dentists have been suspended and at least 12 are under the health authorities’ scanner due to a number of cases involving poor cleaning and sterilisation techniques.

According to New South Wales Health Department, the four dental clinics under question are located across Sydney’s Surry Hills, Bondi Junction and Campsie in south-west part of the city. Two dentists are primarily responsible for running substandard dental clinics in different parts of the city. Dr. Samson Chan ran a clinic called Gentle Dentist in two areas -- at Campsie and Sussex Street in the Sydney CBD.  

The other two clinics were at Surry Hills and Bondi Junction ran by Dr. Robert Starkenburg. Meanwhile, over 40,000 patients have received treatments at both the dental facilities ran by Dr. Chan for the last 10 years and officials indicated at least 11,000 of them have undergone invasive surgery, could be at the risk of HIV and hepatitis now. Similarly, at least 800 people, being treated at Dr. Starkenburg clinics in the last 10 years are also exposed to similar risks.

Suspended Doctors Don’t Believe They Did Anything Wrong

Dr. Starkenburg, 75, said, "I'm a hippie,"  "(But) I haven't put them (patients) at risk. I'm sorry if it's been published that I have - but I haven't," he added. Last year, one of his patients argued with the dentist over hygiene issues, which eventually led to the complaint made to health authorities. To which, Dr. Starkenburg reacted, the patient reportedly wanted him out of business.

Meanwhile, Dr. Shane Fryer of the Dental Council of NSW confirmed Dr. Starkenburg's practice registration was suspended in December last year, while Dr. Chan was suspended in March, 2015.

Contact the writer on barsha23@gmail.com

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