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A Southern Tier health care system to pay $2.7 million for alleged use of unsterilized dental tools

Posted at 12:20 PM, May 25, 2021

NEW YORK (WKBW) — A Southern Tier health care system has agreed to pay $2.7 million for the alleged use of unsterilized dental tools.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Upper Allegheny Health System (UAHS), a health care system that operates several dental clinics in the Southern Tier and Pennsylvania, has agreed to pay the $2.7 million to resolve False Claim Act allegations.

Between April 1, 2010, and May 31, 2015, UAHS allegedly submitted false claims to Medicaid for dental services that were performed using dental tools that were not appropriately sterilized.

"Dental handpieces are considered semi-critical devices and are therefore required to be heat sterilized between each patient use. UAHS failed to purchase sufficient dental hand pieces to allow for such heat sterilization. Instead, UAHS directed personnel to use CaviWipes to “clean” handpieces between patients." a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office says.

The billing of Medicaid for services provided using unsterilized dental tools violates the Federal False Claims Act as well as the New York False Claims Act, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

“It is inconceivable that a healthcare business would seek to cut corners when it comes to the appropriate cleaning and sterilization of medical devices,” noted U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “This settlement under the False Claims Act holds Upper Allegheny accountable for the risks created for patients in the past, while ensuring that in the future patient safety will be preserved and that taxpayers will only pay for services which are properly provided.”

“Patients visit medical offices to seek treatment, not further endanger their health by coming in contact with unsterilized tools,” said Attorney General James. “It is shocking that the Upper Allegheny Health System skirted protocols and risked the safety of its patients, but what’s worse is that we may have never known about these disturbing practices had a whistleblower not come forward. Yesterday’s agreement sends a message that real safety protocols must be followed to protect patients going forward. My office will always fight to hold accountable those who cut corners and risk patient safety.”