Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Boston reporter investigates disciplined

The Boston Channel-See the video report here 
May 25, 2011
BOSTON -- A Team 5 investigation is raising questions about the state board in charge of disciplining dentists in Massachusetts. NewsCenter 5’s Sean Kelly reported Wednesday how difficult it is for the average patient to find out the details of why their dentist was disciplined.

“I just felt helpless,” said Sarah, a patient who admits she should have done research on her dentist first.

“I was livid, beyond furious,” said Sandra, another patient who was unsatisfied with her treatment and left her dentist’s chair complaining. She said she didn’t do research either, selecting her dentist from the phone book.


Check Dentist License Status | Read: Dentists With 3 Or More Complaints

Had they checked the Mass. Board of Registration in Dentistry’s website, they would have been able to find out if their dentists have been disciplined, but not able to find out the reasons why.

Team 5 Investigates spent hundreds of dollars and months of research digging for information that’s hard for the average patient to access.

For instance, according to the dentistry board, five complaints about Dr. Francesco Voci have resulted in action against his dental license. Voci owns Lincoln Dental in Worcester. He’s retired, but his dental license is still current.

The complaints filed against him range from irregular billing and unprofessional conduct to expired drugs. In 2002, the board reprimanded Voci based on one complaint and put him on probation for three others. In 2009, they sent Voci for more education.

“What is the typical number of complaints a dentist can expect over the course of a career?” Team 5’s Sean Kelly asked Jean Pontikas, director of the state Division of Health Professions Licensure.

“Most dentists will never receive a complaint,” Pontikas said.

Let alone be disciplined. But Team 5’s review of state records found 69 dentists with at least five complaints. One dentist, Dr. Anthony DiStefano III, had 25 complaints and had been suspended twice by the board.

DiStefano III recently retired but owns a dental practice in Worcester. Thirteen of the 25 complaints against Distefano’s III license were dismissed. Yet beginning in 2005, the board suspended him twice for a list of violations including inferior work, unprofessional conduct and poor infection control procedures. Two of his patients ended up in the emergency room.

“Is there a point where the board says enough is enough?” Kelly asked.

“He’s still under probation with the board and he’s been closely monitored,” Pontikas said. “They would move very quickly should there be any additional complaints."

Dr. Richard Blase was the subject of 11 complaints. Six of them were dismissed by the board. State documents obtained by Team 5 Investigates show five resulted in probation until 2009, based on allegations of unprofessional conduct and “treatment not in accordance with accepted standards of practice.”

Team 5 reached out to all three dentists and their offices for comment but did not get replies from any of them.

" Would you ever go to one of these doctors?" Kelly asked Pontikas.

"Selecting a dentist is a very personal decision,” Pontikas said.

"But would you go to one of these three?” asked Kelly.

"I would seriously consider the information available to me," said Pontikas.

"You won't say yes or no?" Kelly asked.

"Certainly, it's highly unusual for a dentist to have this number of complaints in their history," Pontikas said.

And patients say it’s unusually hard for them to get details of any state actions, leaving them wondering if the board is really doing all it can to protect the public from dentists with histories of complaints and discipline.

"I wouldn't want someone who had that many actions taking care of my teeth," said Sandra.

"Do they just get unlimited chances?” Sarah said.

Check Dentist License Status | Read: Dentists With 3 Or More Complaints

The board's director defends its record in disciplining dentists during the last five years. But she conceded the board's disciplinary performance before that wasn't good.

Read more: http://www.thebostonchannel.com/news/28025217/detail.html#ixzz1RGsFuMVh