Suspension extended for Budd Lake dentist linked to 1 death, outbreak of infections

MOUNT OLIVE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (Morris County) – Oral surgeon Dr. John Vecchione, whose Budd Lake office has been linked to 15 cases of bacterial endocarditis, Wednesday agreed to the continued suspension of his license pending final disposition of the State’s allegations that his failure to follow infection control protocols exposed his patients to the risk of contracting the serious heart infection.

Under the terms of the agreement, which will be formalized in a Consent Order between Vecchione and the Attorney General, Vecchione is prohibited from practicing until his case is heard by an Administrative Law Judge and the State Board of Dentistry makes a decision based on the judge’s findings.

“Doctors who disregard the health and safety standards in place to protect the public are taking irresponsible risks with their patients’ health,” said Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino. “It is the State’s allegation that the unsanitary conditions in Dr. Vecchione’s Budd Lake office reflected a wanton disregard for the public and endangered peoples’ lives.”

According to a Verified Complaint filed by the Attorney General in August 2016, 15 of Vecchione’s patients contracted bacterial endocarditis between 2012 and 2014. Twelve of those patients required heart surgery, one of whom died.

Subsequent inspections of Vecchione’s surgery office revealed numerous breaches of infection control practices set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other state and federal regulators including failure to use sterile water or sterile saline during surgical procedures, improper handling and storage of multi-dose medication vials, non-sterile preparation of instruments, and improper handling and disposal of needles and syringes.

Vecchione’s failure to practice infection control, aseptic techniques, injection safety, hand hygiene, water quality, and medication preparation exposed his patients to the risk of contracting a bacterial infection resulting in endocarditis, the Verified Complaint alleges.

“The Board is committed to ensuring that medical professionals meet all the standards of their profession, especially those that speak directly to patients’ health and safety,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “By accepting this consensual resolution, the Board has protected the public by prohibiting Dr. Vecchione from treating patients until these very serious allegations against him are resolved.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the Attorney General and Vecchione agreed to seek accelerated proceedings at the Office of Administrative Law.

Vecchione’s license has been temporarily suspended since late August 2016 when an unannounced state inspection of his office – the third in 21 months – revealed continued deficiencies in his infection control practices in violation of a Consent Order Vecchione had entered into with the Board in July 2016. Under the terms of that Consent Order, Vecchione had agreed to continue to maintain infection control improvements he’d made after the state Department of Health (“DOH”) and the Board inspected his practice twice in response to reports that three of his patients had contracted bacterial endocarditis between 2012 and 2014.

Among the stipulations of the July Consent Order were that Vecchione would implement additional infection prevention measures, including appropriate needle safety techniques, proper storage of medication, and use of strict aseptic technique when handling medications. The order also stipulated that the Board reserved the right to bring disciplinary action against Vecchione upon receipt of reliable information that he had violated the terms of the Order.

On July 20, 2016, a final report by the DOH linked “breaches of infection prevention practices” at Vecchione’s office to 15 cases of bacterial endocarditis, a heart infection contracted by his patients.

Based on the state inspection in August 2016, Attorney General Porrino filed the Verified Complaint against Vecchione and also filed an Order to Show Cause Notice of Hearing requiring Vecchione to appear before the Board on August 31, 2016 to explain why a temporary suspension or other restraints should not be placed on his license pending the Board’s final disposition of the Verified Complaint.

The day before that hearing, Vecchione entered into the Interim Consent Order for temporary license suspension. The Board adjourned his hearing until yesterday. Just prior to the hearing, Vecchione agreed to continue his suspension until the Board makes a decision after a full hearing on his case.

Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.

For more Northwest Jersey’s News, tune into 92.7FM, 104.7FM, 1510AM, wrnj.com or on the TuneIn app.

By: Jay Edwards
Follow on Twitter | Like on Facebook

john