Dentist agrees to suspension after 15 patients sickened

A New Jersey oral surgeon has agreed to a five-year license suspension after 15 patients were sickened by a bacterial heart infection and one died

NEWARK, N.J. -- A New Jersey oral surgeon has agreed to a five-year license suspension after 15 patients were sickened by a bacterial heart infection and one died.

Dr. John Vecchione on Monday also agreed to pay $293,500 in penalties. He initially had fought the allegations.

"Dr. Vecchione spent years denying any responsibility for the infections contracted by patients in his care,” said Howard Pine, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs.

Vecchione engaged in “professional misconduct and gross negligence” by failing to follow infection control protocols, state officials said. The state alleged the Budd Lake dentist failed to use sterile water or sterile saline during surgical procedures, improperly handled and stored single dose medication vials and did not properly prepare instruments.

The allegations stemmed from a series of inspections conducted after an outbreak of bacterial endocarditis among Vecchione’s patients.

The suspension is retroactive to Aug. 31, 2016, when Vecchione agreed to a temporary suspension of his license. That means Vecchione will be permitted to start his one-year probationary period as early as Aug 31 of this year if he complies with terms of the consent order and demonstrates his fitness and competency to resume practice, the state said.