NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The state has suspended a dentist whose practice has been linked to more than a dozen infections that caused one death and required patients to undergo follow-up heart surgeries.
John Vecchione signed an agreement this week to suspend his practice until a hearing is held in early October.
A report released last month by the state Department of Health uncovered 15 patients who developed enterococcal endocarditis after undergoing oral surgery using intravenous sedation at Vecchione's practice from December 2012 to August 2014.
Twelve patients required heart surgery, and one patient died from complications.
Vecchione agreed to improve his procedures after inspectors visited his practice in late 2014 and early 2015, but inspectors who visited his office in Budd Lake, Morris County, last month said the problems persist.
"The deficiencies still present in Respondent's practice after multiple prior inspections and the issuance of a Department of Health report demonstrates a lack of judgment and insight into the affect that breaches can have on the safety of the treatment environment," the interim consent order filed Wednesday said.
Vecchione "denies any and all allegations of wrongdoing" and "contends he has made diligent efforts" to fix the problems, the order said.
Vecchione's attorney declined to comment on Friday.
The investigation into Vecchione began in the fall of 2014 when an infectious-disease specialist at an area hospital noticed two patients with heart infections had recently undergone oral surgery at Vecchione's practice.
During a visit to Vecchione's office in November 2014, inspectors found "multiple safety breaches," including the use of single vials of medication for multiple patients, the storage and use of unwrapped syringes, poor hand hygiene and the use of nonsterile products such as multiple-use alcohol dispensers, according to the Health Department report released last month.
A follow-up visit in January 2015 found that Vecchione had made changes to his procedures but that "deficiencies were still noted."
The incidence of enterococcal endocarditis following oral surgery is rare, according to the report — about 1.5 cases per 100,000 patients annually nationwide. Patients at Vecchione's practice in 2013 and 2014 were nearly 250 times more likely to develop the infection, the report concluded.