1,893 prisoners treated by dentists who died of AIDS 200 notified, counseled, some tested, officials say

May 30, 1991|By William F. Zorzi Jr. and Jonathan Bor

In the last 10 days, Maryland correction officials have identified nearly 1,900 inmates treated by two dentists who died of AIDS-related complications.

That number is half the 4,000 inmates originally believed to have been treated by Dr. Victor J. Luckritz, the chief dentist for the Maryland Penitentiary between June 1988 and April 1990, and Dr. H. Dale Scott, a part-time dentist who worked at the prison in May and June 1989.

As of yesterday, more than 200 of the 1,893 inmates identified had been notified and counseled, and blood already has been drawn for testing from some of them, the Division of Correction said yesterday. Notification, counseling and testing of inmates began Tuesday, said Sgt. Gregory M. Shipley, spokesman for division.

About 150 of Dr. Luckritz's former patients have been released from prison and will be notified by mail, said Harry Belinger, a spokesman for Correctional Medical Systems, the state prisons' medical contractor that employed both dentists.

About 90 percent of the inmates notified so far accepted the offer of testing immediately, a number considered "very high," Mr. Belinger said.

A recent study by the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health found that 8 percent of state prison inmates were infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome. If that figure holds for the 1,893 inmates, then scores of the dentists' patients could test positive even if they did not contract the virus during dental treatments.

The risk of contracting HIV during a dental procedure is considered minimal, especially when compared with the risk posed by intravenous drug use and unprotected sex.

The question of who is going to pay for counseling and testing the inmates remains up in the air, although Gov. William Donald Schaefer is insisting that Correctional Medical Systems should foot the bill.

Deputy Attorney General Ralph S. Tyler III said that negotiations between the state and the company are continuing and that he was encouraged by a meeting yesterday morning.

Mr. Belinger said, "We are only addressing the medical problem now. We'll talk about cost later."

Meanwhile, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has determined that both Dr. Luckritz and Dr. Scott worked with other dentists in private practices in the Baltimore area, according to spokesman Michael Golden. The department is now identifying patients who were treated by the dentists, he said.

The 1,893 inmates identified all were patients of Dr. Luckritz, who died May 7, officials said; 53 of them also had been treated by Dr. Scott, who died Oct. 12, 1990.

Officials of Correctional Medical Systems have said Dr. Luckritz did not always use protective gloves on the job, but have not raised the issue about Dr. Scott's brief prison practice.

Dr. Scott worked a total of 52.5 hours over 11 days when he filled in for Dr. Luckritz in May 1989 and two days in June 1989, Mr. Belinger said.

"He was introduced to us by Dr. Luckritz, who recommended him as a replacement when he took a vacation," the spokesman said.

Dr. Luckritz apparently knew Dr. Scott. In fact, Dr. Luckritz wrote the State Board of Dental Examiners on March 23, 1989, on the company's letterhead, notifying the licensing panel that Dr. Scott would begin work at the prison April 3, 1989, records show.

At the time, Dr. Scott was licensed by Virginia, where he had practiced since 1974 and was applying to the Maryland board for a license. Records show it was issued March 31, 1989.

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