The concept is bizarre enough to spawn a horror movie franchise in its image: A rogue dentist operates without a licence, lures clients to his apartment where, in his bedroom, he performs surgeries with dirty, ramshackle equipment.
It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds, with a small industry of unlicenced “street dentists” operating in across the country, often targeting immigrant communities who may not have dental insurance.
The most prescient of which is the case of Tung Sheng Wu, which may already be poised for a sequel. Having practiced without a licence for years in British Columbia, even while under investigation, it now appears Wu could be headed for Ontario to do it all again.
Wu is the subject of a Canada-wide arrest warrant and is believed to be en route to the Toronto area after he disappeared on Thursday while an investigation into his unlicenced practice closed in around him.
The College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia, supported by the RCMP, raided Wu's bedroom dentistry in May and seized equipment that had not been cleaned or properly sterilized. They announced the suspect, who also went by the name David Wu, "is neither qualified nor competent to practice dentistry."
It is believed Wu had been in business since the 1990s, and he was publicly exposed in 2003 while running an unlicenced dentistry in Port Moody. He was barred from claiming he was a dentist and allegedly promised to leave Canada. It appears he did not, and a new practice in Burnaby was uncovered when a client complained.
Wu's Burnaby practice was raided in May, but it is alleged that Wu continued to see patients for two months before he was was shut down. He has since fled the province, with evidence suggesting he is on his way to Ontario to set up shop again.
College registrar Jerome Marburg announced Wu's vehicle was seized and searched, and evidence suggests he was trying to move his equipment across the country.
"I am not permitted to provide a detailed inventory of what we have found, but can say that we have recovered documents, personal effects, and a large quantity of dental supplies," Marburg said in a statement announcing a $2,000 reward for Wu's arrest. "We understand that the vehicle was to be shipped to Toronto."
[ More Brew: Bogus B.C. dentist highlights problem of street medicine ]
Ontario has its own history of rooting out illegal practitioners. The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario lists 13 people who have been, or are in the process of being, prosecuted under the Dentistry Act in Ontario.
Humberto Solano Rosania was arrested in London, Ont., in 2010 after allegedly botching a dental surgery. He was believed to have as many as 600 patients, many if not all of whom were believed to have been exposed to hepatitis B and C.
A Toronto Star investigation at the time found that street dentists tend to target immigrants, who most frequently are without dental insurance. A recent case in Texas suggests the same thing. Unlicenced street dentist Jose Santiago Delao told Yahoo! News that he was doing people a favour by offering a cheap alternative to those who were uninsured.
Wu is believed to rely on word of mouth, specifically through the Chinese-Canadian community, to lure new clients. Considering Toronto's prominent Chinese-Canadian community, there is a fear Wu will find a comfortable new landing spot for his unlicenced practice.
There is a $2,000 reward out for information that leads to Wu's arrest. Some stories just don't need a sequel.
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