Saturday, April 19, 2008

Another Child Files Law Suit Against Smile Starters-Medicaid Dental Centers-Tish Ballance-Michael DeRose-Heather Berkhiemer

April 19, 2008

Child sues dentists over care: Lawsuit alleges malpractice in treatment at Medicaid practice

Karen Garloch
Apr 19, 2008 (The Charlotte Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --

A Charlotte child who got 14 "baby root canals" and stainless steel crowns on the same day in 2003 has sued three dentists with Medicaid Dental Center, claiming dental malpractice.

The suit against the privately owned chain of dental clinics was filed a week after the clinics' owners agreed to pay $10 million to resolve allegations that they made fraudulent claims to the N.C. Medicaid program for unnecessary dental work on poor children.

In the suit filed Friday in Mecklenburg Superior Court, Antavia Digsby, through her mother, Angela, alleged the treatment by dentist Heather Berkheimer "fell below the accepted standards of dental care."

Digsby also sued Letitia Ballance of Mooresville and Michael Anthony DeRose of Pueblo, Colo., dentists and co-owners of Medicaid Dental Center, alleging its policy was to "perform as much treatment as possible in one appointment."

Medicaid Dental Center, now called Smile Starters, has clinics in Charlotte, Raleigh and Winston-Salem.

Antavia was 5 on May 9, 2003, when her mother took her to the Charlotte clinic to have her teeth cleaned. Antavia, now 9, was insured by Medicaid, the state-federal health program for low-income and disabled residents.

On that day, the suit says, Berkheimer performed 14 pulpotomies, similar to root canals, and mounted 14 steel crowns on the child's baby teeth.

Employees at the center restrained Antavia by tying her down on "a papoose board" and refused to allow her mother to be in the room, the suit says. Berkheimer documented that Antavia was "very uncooperative and could not follow directions," the suit says.

Berkheimer, who lives in Southern Pines, could not be reached for comment.

Charlotte attorney James Wyatt, who represents Medicaid Dental Center and its owners, said the suit is "utterly without merit. All the dental work that was done was not only necessary but imperative."

He said the child's mother "consented to all of the work. The real question that needs to be asked is why a parent would bring a child in with her teeth in that condition."

Wyatt said last week that his clients agreed to the $10 million settlement to avoid expensive litigation, but they did not admit the government's allegations.

In 2003, WCNC-TV, now the Observer's news partner, revealed allegations that Medicaid Dental Center had performed unnecessary dental work on children.

In 2005, the N.C. Board of Dental Examiners disciplined nine dentists after an investigation of the clinics.

Ballance and DeRose were placed on probation for three years.

Berkheimer and six other dentists who worked in the clinics received written reprimands that will remain permanently in their N.C. files and with the National Practitioner Data Bank.

The other dentists are: John Lyons, Jeffrey Zieziula and Erron Brady, all of Charlotte; Lori Petree and Christopher Ballinger of Winston-Salem; and Michelle Wilkerson of Raleigh.

According to board documents, at least eight children, some as young as 4, had multiple teeth pulled and root canals performed during single appointments at MDC clinics. Some had as many as 16 pulpotomies and stainless steel crowns during the same visit.

Darren Dawson, a Greenville, N.C., lawyer who filed the Digsby suit, said he represents nine families of children treated at MDC clinics in Charlotte and Winston-Salem, and says he'll file more suits claiming that excessive and unwarranted dental work was done.

Board investigators have made unannounced inspections at each of the MDC clinics since 2005, and authorities said they have been "substantially in compliance" with standards.

I would think it might be a bit difficult for the attorney's for Medicaid Dental Center and The DeRose clan to get them out of this mess, since this blogger alone can tract these exact same kind of complaints and allegations dating back years in the DeRose past and current connection to Small Smiles/FORBA, LLC.

With that, and the vast number of complaints that will likely be coming soon against Small Smiles/FORBA maybe finally the DeRose Reign of Terror demise and not one minute too soon!!

Michael A. DeRose is now and always has been directly associated with Small Smiles, as is his father, Dr. Ed DeRose, his brother, Dan DeRose and Dr. William Mueller just to name a few on the short list.

I hope soon to hear that the State of North Carolina and it's Dental Association have ran Tish Ballance, Dr. Michael DeRose and each dentist in the news report above out of the state on a rail. At the least I call on the state to remove, revoke, and ban these dentist from ever practicing dentistry in this state or any other for that matter.

As I have posted on this very blog, Tish Ballance and "others" as well as Dr. Michael DeRose are advertising for employees right this minute to come work at yet another clinic, Access West and more Smile Starters, designed to do exactly for what they are now being sued!

1 Must Read Comments:

Anonymous said...

I am happy I read this blog. I was going to take my children to Kool Smiles. Not anymore!!! A lot of dentist here in CT have been shut down for the same reasons. They always target the low income medicaid patient. That is not ethical!!!! : (