Outdated patient forms implying children of gay and bisexual men were a risk group for HIV and
Hepatitis have been removed from a South Australian dental practice following a Southern Star investigation.
Adelaide woman Helen Alexander got a shock on a recent visit to dentists, Teeth For Life.
“I was an existing patient, but when I went in for my appointment they said it had come up that they didn’t have a particular form for me on file,” Alexander told the Star.
“Filling it in, the first side I was happy with but then I turned it over and I was really unhappy with what I saw.”
On the back was a question on HIV and Hepatitis risk groups, which it listed as “users of intravenous drugs, recipients of blood or blood products, homosexuals and bisexuals [and] sexual partners and children of any of the above groups”.
“I thought asking whether you were bisexual or homosexual was inappropriate, but I was even more disturbed by the question which asked if you were the partner, and especially the child, of someone who is homosexual or bisexual,” Alexander said.
“I’m not in either of those situations but I have a lot of friends who are gay and I thought immediately I should try to do something about this.”
Staff allowed Helen to make a copy of the form and she contacted the Star. She has since spoken with her dentist who took the issue to Teeth For Life’s head of practice Dr Graham Parry.
Parry said an employee had downloaded the forms from the internet when the practice had run out of patient information forms last year.
“These were forms that contained questions that were probably standard 15 or 20 years ago, but the scientific understanding of these issues has moved on and those questions are no longer necessary,” Parry said.
Alexander was the first person to complain and Teeth For Life has since removed all outdated forms from use.
“I’m happy with the action that Teeth For Life has taken, but I understand similar forms may be being used by other dental surgeries and that’s not acceptable — people should realise by now that this is not how these things are transmitted.”
The Star has identified another dentist in Western Australia using forms with an identical
Australian Dental Association CEO Robert Boyd-Boland said these instances were the first to be drawn to his attention and he believed them to be isolated.
“Information sheets such as these contravene the ethos of the ADA and do little to protect either the patient or staff,” Boyd-Boland said.
“Where children of such people are concerned this question is inappropriate … the correct patient questionnaire should ask if someone has been tested for HIV, Hepatitis C and if so was the result positive.
“The reason the information should be sought has to do with protecting a patient infected by HIV or Hepatitis C from provision of dental treatment at an adverse time. During treatment for Hepatitis C immune levels can drop significantly, platelets can plummet and dental treatment can cause that patient to end up with a nasty infection at a very bad time.
“Knowing a patient has HIV allows the dentist to provide better care, especially if they have had or do have HIV-related oral issues such as severe periodontal disease or warts.”
Dr Parry said he would not be surprised if other practices could be using forms with outdated language.
“We would like to see the Australian Dental Association send a circular around to members on this issue and make more formal advice available,” he said.