As police begin searching for the Burnaby man who operated an illegal dental clinic out of his home, the provincial dentist regulator says it can't find the documents that would fully explain why public health authorities weren't notified about the man in 2003, when he was first found practising without a licence.
An arrest warrant was issued Monday morning for Tung Sheng Wu, also known as David Wu, when he failed to appear at a B.C. Supreme Court hearing. The College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. (CDSBC) is asking for a criminal contempt of court charge against Mr. Wu after an investigation revealed he was still operating as a dentist, despite a 2003 injunction against him doing so.
Fraser Health has issued an alert that the approximately 1,500 patients of Mr. Wu need to be tested for infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen granted a new injunction against Mr. Wu's dental practice on Monday, but reserved judgment on the contempt charge until Mr. Wu has been brought before the court. Mr. Wu has not been seen since early June and no legal documents have been filed from his side in the case, according to a CDSBC lawyer.
The CDSBC hired a private investigator in April after receiving a complaint about Mr. Wu, and in May the RCMP conducted a raid of his home after the court granted a search and seizure warrant. After the CDSBC completed an inventory of the seized items on July 24, the court documents were unsealed and the patient list was given to Fraser Health.
But the new injunction comes a decade after Mr. Wu had already been caught operating illegally in the province – yet no search of his premises had been conducted in 2003, and no public health alerts had been issued.
Jerome Marburg, the CEO of CDSBC, told reporters on Monday that his organization has been unable to find information about the settlement reached with Mr. Wu in 2003, in which he agreed to cease and desist his practice and to leave the country.
"I can tell you that we don't have much documentation from that time, and that's something that concerns me," Mr. Marburg, who was appointed CEO last summer, told reporters. "The fact that that information is not available to us is unacceptable."
When the CDSBC first learned in 2003 about Mr. Wu's practice, it started a legal process that would allow them to search the premises. But Mr. Marburg said that process was stopped when Mr. Wu approached them for a settlement, and no search was conducted.
Mr. Marburg said the CDSBC's priority at the time was to ensure Mr. Wu stopped practising. Once he agreed to that, and also told them he would be leaving Canada, no further action was taken because the CDSBC had no evidence there had been "infection control problems."
When asked whether Mr. Wu's lack of a licence in 2003 should have implied there were hygiene problems with his dental practice – and thus justified a public health alert – Mr. Marburg demurred.
"There's not an implication that way," he said. "We don't know what training he had. Without a very specific court order allowing us to go in and search, we wouldn't know what the facility was."
Mr. Marburg acknowledged that dealing with illegal dental practices is a big challenge for the CDSBC, because it cannot enter the premises of a suspected illegal clinic without a court warrant. "The bottom line is that we fully suspect there are others out there," he said. "The trends in other jurisdictions would indicate that. We have to rely on information coming forth from informants."
As for Mr. Wu, Mr. Marburg said they are seeking the maximum penalty against him for criminal contempt of court, including jail time, to stop him from ever practising as a dentist again. "We hope that the court hits this individual hard enough that he won't do it again. But we have only the powers that we have."