Qld dentist cops huge fine for ‘abysmal’ health breaches
A SMITHFIELD dentist was washing his equipment in a sink with methylated spirits and bleach between patients for weeks after his sterilising device broke down, a court has been told.
Father of three Dr Ken Hossen, who operated Essential Dental for Life, along with parent company Monacove Pty Ltd, were collectively fined more than $150,000 after pleading guilty to a total of seven charges related to breaches of health regulations.
Queensland Health authorities raided the Smithfield practice in June 2019 after a patient who had previously worked in the dental industry became concerned the equipment she was being treated with had already been used.
The raid prompted Queensland Health to issue a public warning for patients of the practice to undergo testing for blood borne diseases including HIV, with more than 700 people tested, a process which cost taxpayers more than $106,000.
Queensland Health barrister Melia Benn told the court Dr Hossen, who had worked as a dentist for over 30 years, admitted to authorities he "knew he had done the wrong thing" and had been using unsterilised equipment "about 50 per cent of the time" since late April 2019.
She told the court he would soak drill bits in bleach, then wipe them with methylated spirits, with investigators locating a rusty drill bit in the sink with other unwashed equipment while at the facility.
"Yes he was a qualified dentist but he had not completed a course in the sterilisation process," she said.
Ms Benn told the court the last person who had worked at the practice with sterilisation qualifications had left in 2018.
She said the practice also did not have the required Infection Control Management Plan and Dr Hossen admitted he was not sure if he had seen one before.
Magistrate Joe Pinder said it was clear the dentist had "failed miserably" in his service to the public and labelled his behaviour "inappropriate, unprofessional and unlawful".
"You have failed abysmally in relation to the obligations cast on you in relation to caring for your patients," he said.
"You have potentially exposed them to significant risk in relation to infection.
"Fortunately for them and for you, that has not resulted, it appears, in there being any transmission of any disease."
Dr Hossen has since been deregistered and his defence barrister James Sheridan said it was unlikely he would ever be able to practice again and getting work in another field was "probably pessimistic".
Mr Sheridan also argued for leniency due to the "public shaming" and media scrutiny after Queensland Health identified him and his practice as part of its warning to patients.
"There has been a significant amount of publicity given to his matter and this adds to his humiliation," he said.
He also said Dr Hossen was suffering mental health issues at the time which likely contributed to his behaviour.
Speaking outside court Dr Hossen's solicitor Scott Osborne, from Osborne Butler Lawyers, said his client was "deeply embarrassed and remorseful".
"He is acutely aware that things could have been done better during a stressful time in his life and he is extremely thankful for the support he still has from former patients and colleagues," he said.
"Dr. Hossen is very pleased that the proceedings are now at an end."
Originally published as Cairns dentist cops huge fine for 'abysmal' health breaches