Anaheim Dental Clinic Reopens After Bacterial Outbreak

ANAHEIM (CBSLA.com) – An Anaheim children’s dental clinic twice closed due to multiple bacterial infections reopened Monday.

The Children’s Dental Group at 2156 E. Lincoln Blvd. was shut down in mid-September and then again in mid-December when tests showed bacteria was still in the office’s water system, even though it recently had been replaced.

Dozens of youngsters have been affected by the bacterial outbreak.

Of the 68 reports to date, 22 cases have been confirmed and 46 are listed as probable, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. All of those children were hospitalized at some point. The age range of the affected patients is 2 to 11 years old, according to the agency. All of the cases were reported between Feb. 4 through Aug. 26 of last year.

“We were really upset, that’s when I became involved, to make sure it got fixed,” said father Fernando Rocha Monday, whose daughter got a serious infection following a root canal.

He said he will never take his daughter to the clinic again.

“No way, it’s just the staff, they just seemed more preoccupied with helping the dentists and the corporation versus kids.”

The Orange County Health Care Agency said baby root canals will now be done at the clinic with sterile, bottled water rather than tap water. According to officials, bacteria was found in the clinic’s water supply twice last year.

Children’s Dental Group CEO Sam Gruenbaum told CBS News that the investigation into how the kids got sick continues.

“I don’t think it was,” Gruenbaum responded when asked if he thought the bacterial outbreak was the clinic’s fault.

A spokesman for the city of Anaheim insists the problem was isolated to the clinic and that the city’s water supply is perfectly safe.

“If there would have been an issue with water contamination coming into the building, none of these businesses would be open here,” city of Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said.

Lyster says that it checks the safety of its water thousands of times per year.

“The health and well-being of our patients remain our top priorities,” said Dr. Jerry Minsky, the Children’s Dental Group’s chief dental officer, in a statement posted on the clinic’s website. “As always, we will provide them with high quality care in a comfortable, safe, child-friendly environment, and do all that we can to ensure their wellness.”

Minsky added in the statement that “we have met all the conditions of the Orange County Health Care Agency’s December 2016 order…”

After multiple evaluations from regulatory agencies, Minsky said the clinic has “extraordinary infection control, sterilization, and safety practices — well beyond those required by dental industry standards.”

Attorney Ed Susolik, whose firm represents a 6-year-old boy who lost much of his lower jaw to an infection, said that “we certainly hope they will have made the necessary changes to ensure the safety of the children and other patients.”

The clinic is facing 16 lawsuits at present, but it is expected the number of lawsuits may near 100 based on how many claims have been filed so far. Legal claims with government agencies are necessary precursors to a lawsuit.

Attorneys in court Friday discussed a move to combine all the cases into one, much like a class-action lawsuit, Susolik said. That is expected to be done soon, he said.

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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