Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dr. Thomas Floyd–More than a decade of complaints

Dentist accused of physically, verbally abusing children he treated

  • Thomas Floyd.

Thomas Floyd. (PBSO, Handout )

sunsentinelSeptember 22, 2013|By Jon Burstein, Sun Sentinel


He developed a reputation over three decades as a champion of dental care for poor children.

But behind the walls of Thomas Floyd's dental practice, some former employees said they heard children screaming in pain and terror.

While his September 2012 arrest for child neglect shocked many in the community, hundreds of pages of records obtained by the Sun Sentinel detail a trail of disturbing allegations that the West Palm Beach children's dentist physically and verbally abused patients dating back as far as 2001.

One father said he took his 5-year-old daughter to Floyd in 2011 and the dentist mistakenly pulled three good teeth. State authorities accused Floyd of confusing the girl with another patient.

"It's horrifying that your daughter goes in for a dental cleaning and comes out missing teeth," said the father, Benjamin Rodriguez. "[Floyd] just didn't care."

Floyd and his attorney have argued he's the the target of false accusations leveled by disgruntled employees and difficult parents.

Among the allegations in state records and police reports:

Eight former employees said they saw Floyd hit or become overly aggressive with crying and disabled children. Some said he hit kids with dental tools.

He was accused of stuffing dental bibs into children's mouths and yelling into their ears to drown out their screams. Some former employees said he would call difficult children names, such as "brat," "ape" or "crybaby."

In a seven-month span in 2011 alone, he was accused of pinching a 2-year-old girl, pushing a 7-year-old girl, and giving a 4-year-old girl eight crowns without her parents' consent.

West Palm Beach police twice investigated Floyd's dental practice, first in 2004 and again in 2012, with the second inquiry leading to his conviction in June of a child neglect charge involving a 4-year-old patient. One of Floyd's former dental assistants told police Floyd jammed a dental tool into the boy's mouth with such force that blood squirted out.

Floyd, 62, agreed to five years' probation and to never again practice dentistry in the United States. Palm Beach County prosecutors promised to file no further charges involving "known victims related to his former dental practice."

The day before Floyd's arrest, the Florida Department of Health suspended his license. A dentist called in to review the accusations against Floyd told state officials they were "nothing short of horrific."

"While one accusation of abuse or anything can come from an angry patient or disgruntled employee, it is impossible to ignore the overwhelming evidence mounting in these cases reported by multiple sources," wrote Tallahassee-based dentist Edward Zapert.

The suspension of Floyd's license was the first action the Department of Health had taken against the dentist. It's unclear whether the state received previous complaints against Floyd because such complaints are not made public unless state officials seek sanctions.

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Floyd's defense attorney said many of the allegations stem from former employees who have been harassing the dentist, as well as a feud between Floyd's employees and those of his now ex-wife, an orthodontist, who worked next door.

"If these accusations were true, Tom Floyd would have had problems years and years ago," said Michael Salnick, Floyd's attorney. "There were things that would go on that would have a reasonable explanation in the practice of pediatric dentistry."

Floyd declined to be interviewed. He contended in a June 2012 letter to the Florida Department of Health that he was the victim of a "witch hunt," arguing he was doing something few dentists do — treating Medicaid patients with severe dental, medical and behavioral problems. With some of those patients, he wrote, came difficult parents.

Until his arrest, Floyd enjoyed an excellent reputation in the dental community. He served as president of the Florida Dental Association from 1997 to 1998, and had chaired or served on several committees focused on indigent dental care and Medicaid issues.

He spoke on such issues nationwide, giving lectures with titles like: "How to treat kids no one wants to treat, get paid one quarter of your usual fee and have fun doing it."

West Palm Beach dentist John Jordan, who has known Floyd for more than 20 years, said he believes Floyd is incapable of hurting children.

"I know him to be a fine and honorable man," said Jordan, whose adult children went to Floyd when they were young. "I don't know of anyone else in the area who treated Medicaid. I think he did the citizens of Palm Beach County a great service by being willing to treat Medicaid [patients]."

Frustrating investigations

West Palm Beach police detectives described their investigations into Floyd as "frustrating." An employee would claim to have witnessed something, but not know the alleged victim's name. A child would claim to have been hurt, but there were no witnesses.

"It was definitely a puzzle," Detective Lori Colombino said.