Illegal dentist exposed; 1,500 patients urged to get HIV tests
Published Wednesday, August 7, 2013 4:06PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 7, 2013 7:03PM PDT
B.C. health officials are warning hundreds of patients who visited an illegal dentist in Metro Vancouver that they may have been exposed to blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis or HIV.
On Wednesday, the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia revealed that a complaint lodged in April had led them to a clandestine dentist’s office operating out of a Burnaby apartment complex.
The occupant, Tung Sheng Wu, also known as David Wu, is believed to have been practicing dentistry without a licence in the province for more than a decade.
“He is neither qualified nor competent to practice dentistry in British Columbia. We do not know what, if any dental training he has,” College CEO Jerome Marburg told reporters.
“Evidence obtained indicates that he has used materials not approved by Health Canada, and that he did not follow infection control precautions for the cleaning and sterilization of his dental equipment and supplies.”
The reason for the patient’s complaint have not been revealed. CTV News could not reach Wu at the home on Wednseday.
After obtaining a court order, the college sent investigators, aided by local RCMP, into the Southwood St. residence on May 29 and seized roughly 1,500 patient files and a supply of equipment from a makeshift dental office that was operating out of a single bedroom.
Authorities say they are “gravely concerned” about what was found, and fear Wu’s clients could have been exposed to serious infectious diseases including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.
The Fraser Health Authority issued a public health alert Wednesday urging anyone who received dental treatment from Wu to have their blood tested.
“Because he was not following the infection control procedures expected of a licensed dentist, we believe there is a sufficient risk of exposure to blood-borne viruses to recommend testing for all clients,” medical health officer Dr. Michelle Murti said in a statement.
Anyone who does not have provincial health coverage can still obtain a free test by calling 1-855-895-7425.
The College is also advising Wu’s patients to seek the attention of proper dentist.
“[We need] to remedy any mistreatment and to have all unsafe materials placed in their mouths removed,” Marburg said.
Authorities suspect Wu practiced illegal dentistry in B.C. as far back as the 1990s. He operated out of a home in Port Moody until being exposed in 2003, when the B.C. Supreme Court issued an injunction barring him from identifying himself as a dentist.
According to the College, Wu, through a lawyer, consented with the order and indicated that he planned to leave the country within a few months.
He is scheduled to appear in court again on Monday.
Anyone who suspects a dentist may not be registered or allowed to practice in B.C. can look him or her up on the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia website.
Note: A different, licensed dentist named Dr. David Wu worked out of a legitimate office on 4330 Hastings St. in Burnaby until retiring in 2010. Health officials confirm he is not the person at the centre of their investigation, and his former patients have no cause to be alarmed.