According to New Zealand Conditions of Practice Handbook, 2011, and current legislation for dental practices in New Zealand the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), were established to reduce harm among workers and to the customers within dental environment, however the Dental clinic at Manawatu, Palmerston North commit infringement to the current laws and regulations for dental practices and practitioners. The issue was reported because a new staff member at this specific dental clinic, did not complete the sterilization process correctly, in fact of that, 14 patients were in risk of disease and possibly HIV and Hepatitis contamination. the instruments utilised while the treatments were performed, had been washed and gone through an ultrasonic bath but did not go into autoclave which is the procedure utilised to completely eliminate any source of infectious microbios.
Patients were informed about the issue and the clinic sent them for the correct tests. Their medical history did not show any medical condition but in some cases patients do not know if there is any infection in the body as some of these are asymptomatics. The manager highlight that the clinic has very strict policies and protocols, but at that time they missed out. In the other hand, the association code of practice detailed describes and explains all the standards that dental clinics and practitioners required to have at the time of cleaning, packaging, labelling and sterilizing in order to maintain patient´s health safe. The standards are H&S procedures extremely important at the time of providing treatments and compulsory in order to practice in the country. The performance of a new staff member was the cause of the issue and it could happen due to an inappropriate training and performance evaluation before the worker start. In New Zealand there is an important numbers of staff turn off and a difficulty on finding the replacement, in dentistry area, only Dentists, Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists mandatory need to be professionally trained and registered, but for Dental Assistant is not necessary the professional training and registration, which mean any person can perform the job and if that person is not well recruited by the Human Resources Manager (HRM) and after the recruitment well trained at the time of tasks performance, the clinic could develop an issue in a short or long term.
Most of the cases, Dental Assistants (DA) are the designated person who manipulate all kind of infected and disinfected instruments, dental materials and medicines. DA permors an important and hazardous role within the dental environment, but the position is not recognised as such. The H&S within dentistry is really important and extensive, from the equipment utilised to the place where the practice operates; everything together is extremely hazardous element. Clinics operate day by day with human fluids which are the most infectious substances and are impossible to eliminate as a hazard, for that reason the designation of different protective barriers for the personnel are mandatory at the time to operates the dentist place such as face masks, gloves, glasses, mob-caps. dental bibs and protective barriers for equipments.
The company involucrated in this situation has to develop strategies to improve the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) of the place because the situation involved a new staff member who need to be aware on how to operate the machinery utilised within the dental industry such as elmasonic baths, autoclave ovens, motors lubrication systems, x-rays machinery, dental chairs, air compressors among others. The HRM is also a significant part of the issue, because the person in charge of HRM requires to recruit the correct person, in this case someone familiar or with some kind of experience within dentistry. For this particular occurence, everyone on the clinic was responsible for the Health and Safety and the event occurs because of a communication issue within the staff members and managers. The improper training of the Dental Assistant in charge of the equipment sterilization was the principal and most important factor for this to happen. The clinic marked the incident as a high risk of cross contamination as 14 patiente were exposed to HIV and Hepatitis among others, and reported to the patients as a manner to prevent future issues. However, social and communication networks publicise the fact as a manner to aware the population, although created defamation for the dental clinic in Palmerston North.