Lawsuit: Knoxville dentist ousted hygienist who refused to break the rules

Knoxville dentist encourages patients to have tests for HIV, hepatitis B & C performed....
Knoxville dentist encourages patients to have tests for HIV, hepatitis B & C performed. / Source: (WVLT)(WVLT)
Published: Dec. 17, 2019 at 1:30 PM EST
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Dr. Clarence 'Buzz' Nabers is facing litigation after a dental hygienist who worked in his office accused him of terminating her employment after she refused to do work that did not comply with state regulations.

The suit filed on October 29, 2019 accuses the dentist of threatening to fire Karla Kovalchik after she reported his misconduct to the TN Board of Dentistry.

According to the lawsuit, Kolvalchik and the other dental hygienists were asked to perform comprehensive examinations, diagnoses and treatment planning while Dr. Nabers was not physically present in the office, which is against Tennessee policy.

The lawsuit states Kolvachik immediately alerted The Board of Dentistry upon asked to violate the policy. The supervisor then allegedly informed Kolvachik that if she "did not do as she was told, she could find other employment."

Kolvachik is demanding no less than $75,000.00 in lost back wages plus damages for humiliation, anxiety, inconvenience, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.

In August, Nabers' license was suspended by the state due to a host of state violations.

Nabers sent a letter to patients on Tuesday encouraging them to get tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C, after the state board determined the office had been using improper sanitation methods.

A patient WVLT News spoke with arrived at Dr. Nabers' office asking employees if the dental practice would pay for the specific tests. Cameron Cook said he received a letter from Dr. Nabers' office, but did not pay much attention to it until he heard about the HIV and hepatitis B & C tests. The patient was given a number to call the Tennessee Health Department.

Nabers runs two dentistry locations, one in downtown Knoxville on Gay Street and the other on Thunderhead Road in Knoxville's new Northshore Town Center.

According to a Cigna Insurance profile, Nabers has worked as a dentist for 27 years after he received his degree at the University of Tennessee Memphis College of Dentistry in 1992. A Tennessee practitioner profile report shows Nabers is "on probation" for two years.

His probation, along with an assessed fine of $11,000, stems from what the state called "unprofessional, dishonorable or unethical conduct" and "failure to use proper sterilization methods."

Nabers' office provided WVLT News with a statement that said, "Although my attorney did not believe the facts, or the law, required individual notices, I chose to do so to eliminate any risk to each and every one of my patients. I mean it when I say patient safety is our priority."

Copyright 2019 WVLT. All rights reserved.

As we wrap up 2019 Dr. Nabers would like to share a quick update with his loyal patients. Please don’t hesitate to call our office and speak personally with us about any further questions!

Posted by Dr. Buzz Nabers, DDS on Monday, December 9, 2019