Healthy Choices Blog

News and inspiration for healthy living in Northern California

Hector Amezcua / hamezcua@sacbee.com

Convened by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, the gathering brought together community health leaders, representatives from Sutter Medical Center, other care systems, dentists, anesthesiologists and advocates for oral health care policy.

Sutter agrees to extend dental surgery program

Published: Monday, Jun. 23, 2014 - 7:18 pm

Sacramento County’s latest dental-care crisis appears to have been averted for now during a meeting Monday at the Capitol.

Convened by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, the gathering brought together community health leaders, representatives from Sutter Medical Center, other care systems, dentists, anesthesiologists and advocates for oral health care policy.

The stakeholders hammered out a short-term solution to ensure that developmentally disabled adults and children have access to oral health care that often requires full anesthesia for the special-needs patients. Some patients with severe autism, for example, are so sensitive that they need to be put under so a dentist can work on their teeth without incident.

The issue arose after Sutter Medical Center officials announced last month that the hospital planned to shut down its dental surgery facilities on July 31, saying they could no longer afford such care due to low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for low-income and disabled patients. Because laws prevent nonprofit hospitals from denying care to one particular population, Sutter could not keep its dental surgery program open to anyone.

Sutter was the last in a long line of Northern California hospitals to discontinue dental surgery, leaving the medically and emotionally fragile patients with no place to go in the region for oral health care.

But on Monday, Sutter reversed course, agreeing to keep the dental surgery program running at least through September, and possibly longer, Steinberg said. Ultimately, two key issues must be resolved: increasing a low Medi-Cal reimbursement and diversion of the more functional patients to other dental clinics.

Steinberg said he is establishing a new, short-term task force to establish clear protocols defining which special-needs patients need to be seen where.

“There needs to be more information about how to determine the appropriate setting for developmentally disabled patients depending on the severity of their condition,” Steinberg said. “Not everyone who ends up in the hospital needs to be there.”

Dr. James Stevens, president of the California Dental Association, had said Sutter’s initial decision was “clearly an access-to-care crisis for our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”


Call The Bee’s Cynthia H. Craft, (916) 321-1270.

Read more articles by Cynthia H. Craft



About Healthy Choices

Cynthia CraftCynthia H. Craft began her reporting and editing career in Columbus, Ohio, after graduating from Ohio State University. She worked at a Dallas, Texas, newspaper as an editor, and then at the Los Angeles Times, as an editor and Capitol Bureau correspondent. After working as editor in chief at the California Journal, Craft went to Lima, Peru, for three years as a visiting professor of journalism at Peruana Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas. She was a fellow in 2012 at the National Library for Medicine in Washington, D.C. at the National Institute for Health. She's currently The Sacramento Bee's senior writer on health, a position made possible by a grant from The California Endowment.

Share a story tip or story idea
Email: ccraft@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1270
On Twitter: @cynthiahcraft.

Healthy Choices Archives

Note: The Healthy Choices blog switched blog platforms in August 2013. All posts after the switch are found here. Older posts are available using the list below.

Sacramento Bee Job listing powered by Careerbuilder.com
Quick Job Search
Sacramento Bee Jobs »
Buy
Used Cars
Dealer and private-party ads
Make:

Model:

Price Range:
to
Search within:
miles of ZIP

Advanced Search | 1982 & Older

TODAY'S CIRCULARS