Judge undecided on class-action status of case against VA dentist

Dentists
Written by Mackenzie Garrity | March 12, 2019 | Print |

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While a federal class-action lawsuit has been filed by six veterans against the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, Wis., the judge has not ruled whether the case qualifies for class action status, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

The veterans claim they suffered emotional distress after being alerted that Thomas Schiller, a dentist at the medical center , did not properly sterilize instruments and equipment. Patients at the clinic were instructed to get tested for HIV and hepatitis.

Nearly 600 veterans got tested, but none tested positive. During the wait to get test results back, which spanned six months for some, the veterans claim they suffered emotional distress.

The trial is slated for October, according to the report.

The veterans filed their lawsuit Nov. 1, 2017, on behalf of 592 veterans who were treated by Dr. Schiller.

In September 2017, the VA Office of Inspector General determined Dr. Schiller may have exposed patients to infectious diseases because of a lapse in hygiene routines. The veterans allege the sterilization issues were known within the VA Tomah for a year before the government took action.

Dr. Schiller admitted to using unsterilized dental burs, government officials said. He told the VA investigators he used disinfectant to clean the instruments, believing it to be a common practice in the private sector, he said.

VA officials deny allegations that they failed to properly train Dr. Schiller. The U.S. attorney's office in Madison tried to have the case dismissed, but the motion was denied.

Dr. Schiller's attorney is arguing that a toxic work environment caused the error in sterilization. In a January 2017 letter to the Office of Inspector General, the dentist's lawyer wrote that the environment at the VA clinic caused Dr. Schiller's inability "to have the energy to initiate independent research after the busy day," according to the Journal.

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