A Department of Veterans Affairs dentist may have infected 592 veterans with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or HIV, but instead of getting fired, he was rewarded with an administrative position at the agency.
The unnamed dentist at a VA facility in Tomah, Wis., refused to use the disposable, sterile equipment required of VA providers and instead used his own dental tools on patients, cleaning them himself and reusing them on hundreds of veterans.
Victoria Brahm, acting medical director of the Tomah VA, said the dentist has been moved to an administrative job at the agency, according to WEAU in Tomah.
"It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations," Brahm said during a press conference Tuesday. "During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure."
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who represents a district in Wisconsin, slammed the VA on Thursday for allowing a taxpayer-funded official to expose so many veterans to deadly diseases.
"This news is not just heartbreaking; it's outrageous," Ryan said in a statement. "How can our veterans be treated so carelessly and where is the accountability?" The individual in question has not even been fired — a truly stunning show of bureaucratic impunity."
Ryan said the incident was just the latest evidence that the VA will require a "complete overhaul."
The Tomah VA hospital has come under fire in the past for dramatically over-prescribing opiates to veterans, a pattern that earned it the nickname "Candyland" among locals.
Nationwide, the VA has faced criticism for its failure to fire dozens of employees implicated in incompetent, abusive or even illegal activities at the VA.
Although officials at 110 VA hospitals and clinics around the country created fake patient waiting lists to cover up long wait times during the Obama administration, only nine employees were ever fired for their involvement in the scheme, and only one at the level of hospital director.
A VA spokesperson told the Washington Examiner that veterans exposed to the diseases could obtain free testing at the Tomah facility.
"We recently learned of a potential risk of infection to Veterans related to dental procedures in our dental clinic. These procedures were performed by a single VA practitioner who did not follow established infection control practices during the period of October 2015 to October 2016," the spokesperson said.
"Although the risk of infection is determined to be low, out of an abundance of caution, we are contacting every veteran who might have been exposed to disclose this incident, explain the potential risk and offer free testing for blood borne pathogens to include HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C," the spokesperson continued.
The dentist in question could face "administrative actions," which are "pending," the VA said.
A VA spokesperson encouraged concerned veterans to call 888-598-7793 to schedule an appointment to be tested for the diseases.