Corrections, prisoners claims against dentist dismissed

Claims by Corrections officers and prisoners that a dentist used the same equipment on successive patients have been thrown out. Photo:
Claims by Corrections officers and prisoners that a dentist used the same equipment on successive patients have been thrown out. Photo:

A dentist accused by Corrections officers and prisoners of using dirty equipment has been cleared.

The accusations included that he used the same equipment on successive patients, and that he was rough and aggressive.

Three Corrections officers and several patients complained to the New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.

They claimed the dentist used the same dental equipment on successive patients without sterilisation, or wiped it down with a handy towel before placing it on a tray for use with the next patient - including patients who were positive for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

One patient also claimed that he had to rinse his mouth into a hand basin used for rinsing dental equipment and staff to wash their hands.

Another prisoner claimed only seven of his teeth were pulled despite a WINZ payment for 14 to be fixed.

He also claimed he had to eat baby food for 12 months until his dentures were ready.

The prisoner told the Tribunal that the removal of his teeth was "so full on and aggressive that [he] honestly thought that [he] was going to die".

One female prisoner, in her complaint, admitted that she was an anxious person and got stressed in situations where people were arguing.

She claimed the dentist "appeared surly and was in no way welcoming or reassuring". At one point he put his fingers in her mouth without gloves on, she claimed.

She also gave evidence that he showed her the wrong x-rays and was "rude and discourteous", saying the situation was "like something out of the Third World".

But the Tribunal found that her testimony was more "extreme and emotional" than her statement. It found her evidence couldn't be substantiated against the testimony of the dentist and his assistant.

The dentist denied any wrongdoing. Although he couldn't recall some of the incidents with clarity, he gave evidence of his usual practice which was accepted by the Tribunal.

He also successfully disputed claims around which instruments were used during the procedures in question.

The Tribunal found inconsistencies with the Corrections officers' testimonies, including the number of prisoners taken for treatment on the day in question.

In one instance, the Tribunal found the officer would have more likely been focused on the prisoners and their actions rather than what equipment the dentist was using.

Prison staff continued to take the prisoners to the practice despite what they claimed to have seen.

The Tribunal also confirmed through the prison's health centre manager that no prisoners who had Hepatitis B or C were treated on the days which complaints were laid.

The charge was dismissed.

- NZ Herald

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