CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A mobile dental program that travels to schools to provide services for low-income students performed work on the wrong child last week, sending a Boone County 8-year-old home with a filling in his mouth he was not authorized to receive.
FamilyCare, which provides income-based health care at several locations in south-central West Virginia, removed Daniel Holestin from class at Brookview Elementary School on Thursday, took him inside an RV, numbed him and gave him a filling, according to his mother, Amber.
Daniel was sent home with a note in his backpack notifying his parents of the dental work he had received and referring him to a local dentist — but the paper was addressed to another boy in a different grade with a very similar name.
“You send them to school thinking they’re in custody of teachers and the principal, and then find out that someone just comes to the school and sends them out in a van, with no school personnel, to be worked on,” Amber said. “We’re not sure who did the procedure or how clean the place was. It’s not a dentist we know and trust. They didn’t even know my child’s medical history — what he’s allergic to.”
Amber said she had signed a form sent home earlier by the school that signified she would not allow her son to receive this treatment.
“There are no safeguards — no protocol to make sure those students are the right students. If they would’ve asked my child to verify his address, maybe it would’ve been a red flag,” she said. “They had no authorization to even touch my child. It just blows my mind that, nowadays, this can happen. It’s beyond my comprehension that something like this can happen.”
Amber was unsure if the filling Daniel received was even necessary or if the work was based off the other student’s records. She said she called several officials with FamilyCare but that it was “a blame game,” and that she was told only that she would not be billed for the procedure. Now, she has an appointment with her son’s dentist on Monday to ensure the procedure was needed and done correctly.
She also is worried that Daniel was given a fluoride treatment at school, since he had just received one the week prior, and too much exposure can be bad for enamel.
Becky Erwin, a dental hygienist who works for FamilyCare’s mobile dental unit that serves schools in Boone and Putnam counties, said she was on the RV that day but did not work on that particular student and would not comment further on the issue.
A regular dentist performs the restorative work on students, and hygienists perform preventive care for free, Erwin said.
Erwin said consent forms are sent home with students, and that FamilyCare officials rely on school personnel to provide them with a list of students who want care - and the correct students.
“I always make sure who they are, what grade they’re in … but for all of that information, we depend a lot on the school. You can’t expect a 5-year-old to know all of that,” Erwin said.
Boone County Schools Superintendent John Hudson did not return phone calls by press time.
Problems with mobile dental units that often serve the state’s rural, low-income schools are nothing new, said Richard Stevens, executive director of the West Virginia Dental Association. In fact, during the latest legislative session, a rule was passed that was designed by the West Virginia Board of Dentistry to regulate and provide guidelines for mobile dental facilities and portable dental units.
Mostly, the WVDA has heard complaints concerning out-of-state mobile units that spiked in recent years after hikes in Medicare fees. Since 2000, when out-of-state companies started providing services to West Virginia schools, the association has heard dozens of concerns about proper sterilization of equipment and infection control.
“I hate to sound negative about a service that’s well-intended, but this is like an RV that you see out on the highway, with a dental chair. They’re profit-driven, they come into the community, pull up into a schoolyard, bring children out of school, put them through the mobile unit, and then they pull out and go on to another community the next day,” Stevens said. “There had been very little, if any, regulation of these mobile dentist facilities in West Virginia prior to the legislation approved just this past session.”
The legislation, introduced in January, requires any mobile dental unit in West Virginia to receive a permit from the state Board of Dentistry and requires units to have a slew of equipment and follow certain cleaning protocols.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at @mackenzie.m…@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.
(c) 2014 The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, W.Va.)
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