Our message to families
Neighborcare Health recently discovered a deficiency in our dental sterilization procedures involving some of the dental handpieces used at our Seattle and Vashon school-based health clinics.
This incident only impacted patients that were seen at our school-based clinics for dental procedures. The incident did not impact patients seen in Neighborcare Health’s other medical or dental clinics, or patients seen for medical-only care in the school-based clinics. The incident did not impact students seen only for dental screenings, nor did it impact students seen by Public Health—Seattle King County’s Sealant Program.
We want to first clearly express how sorry we are for this incident and any concern that it causes our patients and their families. We want to explain what happened, the possible risks, and what we are doing to ensure it cannot happen again.
We take very seriously our responsibility to provide our patients and communities with quality, accessible care. We are committed to keeping our patients informed about their health care and following up with them as needed.
- A Neighborcare Health staff member identified a breakdown in our dental sterilization procedures involving dental handpieces at our school-based health clinics and notified leadership.
- A dental handpiece, is the base that you attach tools to, such as polishing cups and burs, used in dental cleaning and filling procedures. See the photo below.
- We discovered that all dental handpieces were cleaned with the germicidal disinfectant, CaviCide, which kills pathogens associated with hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, but some handpieces did not undergo the additional required autoclave/heat sterilization process, possibly exposing some patients to infectious diseases.
- In response, we conducted a thorough investigation and determined this incident may have impacted patients seen at our school-based clinics for dental care prior to March 4, 2019. The timeframe for when Vashon Island school-based dental patients were potentially impacted was between September 2017 and March 2018.
- All other instruments used during dental procedures were properly sterilized.
- This incident only impacted patients that were seen at our school-based clinics for dental procedures.
- The incident did not impact patients seen in Neighborcare Health’s other medical or dental clinics, or patients seen for medical-only care in the school-based clinics.
- The incident did not impact students seen only for dental screenings, nor did it impact students seen by Public Health—Seattle King County’s Sealant Program.
Why do we believe the risk is low?
- In consulting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we understand that no literature has ever demonstrated that infectious disease transmission has ever occurred from a dental handpiece.
- Public Health – Seattle & King County also believes the risk of exposure to pathogens for infectious diseases is low.
- Some handpieces were fully heat sterilized.
- All handpieces, including those that were not heat sterilized, were cleansed with the germicidal disinfectant, CaviCide. CaviCide kills pathogens associated with hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV within 2 minutes.
- Handpieces do not penetrate mucous membranes or bone, reducing the likelihood of exposure to pathogens/transmission.
How is Neighborcare Health responding?
- On March 27 we sent letters to any possibly affected patients. We are also following those letters with letters translated to Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese for families that indicated those language preferences.
- In the letter to patients, we are offering patients get tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV at no cost to the patients through Immediate Clinic urgent care centers, which is a third party that Neighborcare Health has contracted with to provide the testing. We will follow up with all patients as needed.
- In the letter, we provided a phone number for Neighborcare Health’s school-based health program manager for patients and parents to call with questions, concerns, and or to get more information. Any staff members who get questions from any patient or parent, can direct them to this phone number. 206-548-3061
- We have been actively assisting and responding quickly to parents, patients and concerned community members who have called us. We will continue to respond for as long as needed.
- We immediately re-trained all school-based dental staff in sterilization processes and policies. We will also reassure that all new and current dental assistants across the Neighborcare Health organization are following sterilization procedures. We continue to review our processes and policies and refine our standards as necessary to ensure that we operate in a manner consistent with our nonprofit mission to provide safe and high-quality care to our patients.
- We continue to work with Public Health—Seattle & King County and the Washington State Department of Health about this sterilization incident.
- We have also been in communication with school principals, Seattle Public Schools and the Vashon Island School District. It is important to note that Public Health--Seattle & King County is the entity that manages the school-based program entities, including Neighborcare Health.
- Patients or parents with questions, concerns, or who want more information should contact Neighborcare Health at 206-548-3061. Interpretation is available.
Schools where Neighborcare Health provided school-based dental services and patients were potentially impacted:
Denny International Middle School
Chief Sealth International High School
Van Asselt Elementary
Mercer Middle School
West Seattle Elementary
Highland Park Elementary
Madison Middle School
Beacon Hill International
Bailey Gazert Elementary
McMurray Middle School
Photo of a dental handpiece