VANCOUVER - The search for a dentist accused of practising without a license in Burnaby, B.C., has become a country-wide hunt, prompting B.C.'s college of dental surgeons to offer a $2,000-reward to anyone who provides information leading to his arrest.
The college said Thursday that it was granted the authority to seize and search Tung Sheng Wu's vehicle from a transportation facility in Richmond the day before.
Judging from the documents, personal belongings and dental supplies that were found inside the car, which was slated to be shipped to Toronto, college registrar Jerome Marburg said there is reason to believe Wu is planning to establish a practice out east.
"We consistently are finding quantities of dental supplies," he said. "If he was to abandon that venture, one would expect that he wouldn't be...shipping dental supplies where he was going. That leads us to believe that there is a high likelihood that he is going to set up shop somewhere else."
Wu is wanted on an arrest warrant for contempt of court allegations that he violated a 2003 injunction ordering him to stop practising dentistry.
In late May, RCMP and college investigators searched Wu's house following a complaint from a client. Court documents say that a bedroom was set up to perform operations, dirty dental supplies were strewn about, and an old sterilizer for equipment laid unplugged and dusty.
None of the dental supplies found in Wu's house or car are approved by Health Canada, Marburg said.
According to the Fraser Health Authority, more than a thousand people may have been exposed to the unsanitary conditions, prompting the health authority to urge those who received treatment from Wu to get tested for blood-borne viruses.
While the college knew that Wu was practising illegally back in 2003, it was deemed not necessary at the time to issue a public warning, said Marburg.
"There was no evidence of any public health concerns at the time around infection," he said. "We had evidence this individual had been practising, we got an injunction to get him stopped and that's what we do. We understood that he had stopped and he had left the country."
Marburg said there are likely unlicensed dentists out there who are practising in a safe way, but the college's responsibility is to shut them down.
However, what the college would do now when notified of an illegal practice may be different from what it did in 2003, he said.
"It will depend on what information we have, how we get it, what results we get, but as a general rule, I think we would look to see what was going on in the clinic," he said.
An affidavit filed earlier this week in B.C. Supreme Court alleges Wu continued seeing patients for almost two months following the search of his clinic in May, but Marburg said it took about that long to shut his clinic down.
Medical health officer Michelle Murti said since the warning was issued last week, Fraser Health has received about 150 calls. Some people had already gone to get tested, while others were directed to do so, she said.
"From what we've seen now, there's sufficient evidence to say there's inadequate infection control," she said. "We can only presume that this type of infection control is what (Wu's) been doing since he's been practising, which is why we've been extending the warning to anyone who's ever been a client, but we really have no information about what was happening in 2003."
Murti said people can expect their test results in between three and four weeks, and she urged all of Wu's patients to get tested.
While he acknowledged affordability could be one of the reasons why people chose to be treated by Wu, Marburg said he believes Wu was targeting people in immigrant communities who tend to gravitate towards each other.
"Within tight immigrant communities, they may know the person from overseas," he said. "Realistically it provides an environment where these types of people can prey on a population that doesn't know you need to be licensed, or doesn't understand what the standards are and the standards that need to be met."
Note to readers: This is a corrected version. An earlier version misspelled Jerome Marburg's name.
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