Ne­go­ti­a­tions un­der­way to keep UMD den­tal school clinic open

West Ce­cil Health, Union Hospi­tal to take over

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JANE BELLMYER jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

PERRYVILLE — Ne­go­ti­a­tions are un­der­way in hopes of pre­vent­ing the Univer­sity of Mary­land Den­tal School clinic from clos­ing, po­ten­tially leav­ing many low- in­come county res­i­dents without lo­cal den­tal care.

The nine- year- old fa­cil­ity on Route 40 in Per- r yville is cur­rently op­er­ated by the Univer­sity of Mary­land Den­tal School, with ser vices pro­vided by its stu­dents. In 2014, the 26- chair clinic saw more than 3,200 pa­tients.

How­ever, since all its pa­tients are low in­come, or no in­come, the pro­gram has strug­gled to be self­sup­port­ing and univer­sity of­fi­cials let the Mary­land Leg­is­la­ture know sev­eral years ago that they wanted to close the school, Del­e­gate Kevin Horn­berger ( R- Ce­cil) said.

“The last five years they’ve been op­er­at­ing at a deficit. It was their in­ten­tion to pull out of Perr yville,” he said Wed­nes­day.

But own­er­ship and op­er­a­tion of the clinic may be about to change hands as ne­go­ti­a­tions are cur­rently un­der­way to keep the pro­gram open, he said. The cur­rent plan calls for Union Hospi­tal to lease the build­ing, with West Ce­cil Health Cen­ter op­er­at­ing the pro­gram.

Den­tal stu­dents would con­tinue to pro­vide

ser­vices even af­ter West Ce­cil, based in Conowingo, takes the reins of the fa­cil­ity, Horn­berger added.

While ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tinue, Horn­berger said he and State Sen. Steve Her­shey ( R- Up­per Shore) have co­or­di­nated with Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s of­fice to keep the cen­ter funded un­til the new ar­range­ment is fi­nal­ized.

“If it takes more time, we’ll do what we have to do to keep it run­ning. There will be no lapses,” he said. “Of ever yone in­volved in this process, no one wants to see this go away. No one wants to see a lapse in ser vice.”

Un­der that new ar­range­ment, the pro­gram would have fed­eral fi­nan­cial sup­port, he added.

Dr. Mark Reynolds, dean of the den­tal school, ac­knowl­edged talks are on­go­ing.

“The Univer­sity of Mary­land School of Den­tistry has been en­gaged in dis­cus­sions with West Ce­cil Health Cen­ter about their in­ter­est in as­sum­ing op­er­a­tional over­sight of the Perr yville Den­tal Clinic,” Reynolds said in a pre­pared state­ment.

How­ever, Ce­cil County Coun­cil­man Dan Sch­neck­en­burger said Wed­nes­day he is “99 per­cent cer­tain” West Ce­cil Health Cen­ter would take over start­ing in 2017.

Sch­neck­en­burger is con­fi­dent that 2017 will find West Ce­cil Health Cen­ter, led by Mark Ra­jkowski, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, in charge of the prac­tice.

“I’m thrilled he’s tak­ing over. Mark has done great things in this county,” he said.

When the Conowingo Li­ons Club cham­pi­oned West Ce­cil Health Cen­ter in 2006, Ra­jkowski en­vi­sioned that the fed­er­ally funded fa­cil­ity would of­fer ev­ery needed med­i­cal ser­vice un­der one roof, in­clud­ing den­tal care. The 2000 U. S. Cen­sus iden­ti­fied the west­ern end of the county as “med­i­cally un­der­served.”

With sup­port from var­i­ous fed­eral, state and county of­fi­cials, the cen­ter opened in Jan­uary 2008. While it was open to all, the fo­cus was on those with lit­tle or no health in­sur­ance. Ra­jkowski said at that time that he and his board of di­rec­tors planned to add den­tal ser vices in the fu­ture, along with ob­stet­rics and men­tal health care. Den­tal ser vices are of­fered at their lo­ca­tions in Conowingo and Havre de Grace, but the den­tal school would be a great ad­di­tion, Sch­neck­en­burger said.

“It is a valu­able re­source,” he add.

Irma Brager is one of those pa­tients who is re­lieved that the school is not clos­ing.

“When I heard they were go­ing to close I was be­side my­self,” the Conowingo wo­man said.

Brager, who lives on a fixed in­come, said she needed den­tal im­plants a few months ago.

“I was think­ing how was I go­ing to pay the $ 6,000 to $ 7,000,” Brager said, not­ing that a friend told her about the den­tal school. “I never even knew it ex­isted.”

She can­celed her ap­point­ment with a pri­vate den­tist in Bel Air and made an ap­point­ment at Perr yville.

“It was a dif­fer­ence of a cou­ple thou­sand dol­lars,” she said.

With im­plants in place at a price she could af­ford, Brager is ec­static.

“I came out of there that day ... feel­ing like some­thing was lifted off my shoul­ders,” she said. “I was re­ally thank­ful.”

Horn­berger noted that the univer­sity ini­tially set up the pro­gram at the be­hest of the Mar yland Leg­is­la­ture in re­sponse to the 2007 death of a child due to poor den­tal health.

“He died of some­thing that could have been fixed by a sim­ple den­tal pro­ce­dure,” he said.

Dea­monte Driver died from a brain in­fec­tion caused by un­treated den­tal disease.

Union Hospi­tal of­fi­cials told Horn­berger they see a great deal of den­tal disease in the emer­gency depart­ment. Hav­ing the den­tal school con­nected to the hospi­tal would help those pa­tients, he said.

“It will help the folks that need it most,” he said.

Brager is es­pe­cially re­lieved. She has an­other ap­point­ment next week.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

The Univer­sity of Mary­land School of Den­tistry in Perryville is ex­pected to change hands by the end of the year.

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