Tennessee dentist forced out dental hygienist who reported misconduct, lawsuit claims

A former employee of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Clarence "Buzz" Nabers, DDS, claims she was forced out of her job after refusing to perform procedures she was not licensed to do, Knox News reports.

According to a lawsuit filed in October, dental hygienist Karla Kovalchik said she refused Dr. Nabers' orders to perform procedures outside her professional scope and filed a complaint with the state. Ms. Kovalchik claims she openly cooperated with the state investigation from July 2018 until she was fired that December.

This summer, the investigation found Dr. Nabers improperly sterilized dental equipment, forged certification documents and had unqualified employees perform dental work. The dentist was fined $11,000, and his license was placed on probation for two years. Now, the state health department is recommending Dr. Nabers' patients be tested for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C due to the improper sterilization techniques.

After Dr. Nabers told dental hygienists in July 2018 that they had to "provide comprehensive examinations, diagnoses and treatment planning" when he wasn't there, Ms. Kovalchik called the Tennessee Board of Dentistry and was told she could not legally perform the procedures without Dr. Nabers, the lawsuit alleges. She told her boss, a hygiene coordinator, who is not named in the lawsuit. She claims the hygiene coordinator then threatened to fire her and reduced her hours until she was removed from the schedule entirely Dec. 13, 2018.

In a court response, Dr. Nabers denied knowledge of the hygiene coordinator's actions and claimed he did not "require" hygienists to perform procedures in his absence. He said he didn't know Ms. Kovalchik had cooperated with the state and that she was removed from the schedule because she refused to "work on a 'floating' basis."

The dental hygienist is seeking at least $75,000 in damages.  

More articles on dental:
Oregon dental clinic warns patients that equipment was not properly sterilized
Connecticut dentist must pay $1.7M after exploiting Medicaid patients
Michigan dentists offered $10K bonuses for working at state facilities

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