British Columbia

Patient of illegal B.C. 'bedroom dentist' speaks out

A former patient of an illegal dentist in Burnaby, B.C., says no one has contacted him yet about health concerns, despite warnings that patients who had received dental treatment should be tested for HIV and hepatitis.

Unemployed man sought discount dentist

Carlos Battistini saw Tung Shen Wu because he couldn't pay more 2:29

A former patient of an illegal dentist in Burnaby, B.C., says no one has contacted him yet about health concerns, despite warnings that patients who had received dental treatment should be tested for HIV and hepatitis.

Carlos Battistini told CBC News he went to see Tung Shen Wu, also known as David Wu, about a bridge a year ago.

The College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. gave a public warning earlier this week about the illegal dental clinic Wu operated out of his Burnaby home. Wu was identified by the college as having no authority to practise dentistry.

Fraser Health says it is in the process of writing to patients for whom they have records.

"These records are very incomplete," said Dr. Michelle Murti of Fraser Health Authority. "Some years we have hundreds and some years we have less than 20," she said.

"These are probably not everybody that's ever seen this person... [so] really our main way of trying to reach people is through the media," she added.

Wu was previously shut down in 2003, but Murti said the College of Dental Surgeons did not contact public health officials at that time.

They're now advising anyone who saw him for treatment during the past 20 years to be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Discount dentist

Battistini said he couldn't afford a full-priced dentist, so he went looking for a discount one.

Tung Shen Wu, also known as David Wu, has operated two illegal dental practices in B.C. over 20 years. (CBC)

When a friend suggested he try someone who fixed cavities out of his home and charged just a fraction of the costs of other dentists, Battistini, who was out of work and had no health benefits, didn't question it too much.

For $20 cash, Battistini got a filling fixed. He also needed bridge work done. Wu quoted him a price of $200 to $400 for work that would have cost $800 to $1,000 at regular dentists, he said

Still, he had concerns after arriving at Wu's home clinic in Burnaby.

"Something suspicious, illegitimate. I was thinking, well, for the price he's charging, probably that's why he's operating this way," said Battistini, who opted not to have the bridge done.

"Other than that, he's a human being," Battistini added.

Media muzzled?

Back in 2003, Wu was the subject of a court injunction ordering him to stop his underground dental practice, which he operated out of a residence on Ravine Drive in Port Moody, B.C.

At the time, Wu's lawyer argued against public notification in Chinese newspapers, saying his client was planning to shut down his practice and return to his native country.

On Friday, the college couldn't say whether or not it had agreed to that.

"I wasn't there in 2003, don't have the records in front of me," said Jerome Marburg, registrar for the college.

"Was a judgment call made that a public interest had been met that he stopped and was leaving the country?"

Fraser Health Authority said it will be sending out letters to Battistini and other former patients soon.

Wu's current whereabouts are unknown, but a court hearing is scheduled for Monday.

[IMAGEGALLERY galleryid=4828 size=large]

With files from the CBC's Petti Fong