Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Dental Clinic to Close Indefinitely at End of July ; Commissioners Asked to Increase Funding

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Dental Clinic to Close Indefinitely at End of July ; Commissioners Asked to Increase Funding

Article excerpt

Despite recent efforts to keep it open, the Vanderburgh County Community Dental Clinic will close indefinitely at the end of the month, health department officials announced at the County Commissioners meeting Tuesday. "Even though we do have some dentists lined up that could work for us in August, we cannot operate the clinic without staff," said Dr. Ray Nicholson, health officer at the Vanderburgh County Health Department.

The clinic already was on track to close Tuesday, which is lead dentist Sarah Stratton's last day before entering private practice.

But Nicholson told the Courier & Press last week, thanks to several dentists committing to fill in part time, he was hopeful the clinic could be open at least some weekdays beginning Aug. 6.

That all changed, though, when letters of resignations from Stratton's three staff members began rolling in Friday.

"If you were working.. and suddenly you were put part-time, you're going to look for full-time work," said Nicholson. "I don't want to put the blame on them."

The move affects more than 5,200 enrolled indigent patients, many of whom are repeat visitors.

The clinic drew so many visitors in its first few years, staff members said, it became appointment-only in 2009.

Jacqueline Duff, Impact Christian Health Center executive director, said her clinic in Evansville and the Tulip Tree Family Health Care clinic in Gibson County can't address the need on their own.

"There is such a great need for dental in the community that it could stay open and we still not meet everybody," Duff said.

Duff said her clinic, which serves about 600 patients a year with volunteer dentists, probably will see its 300-person waiting list grow.

Located at 612 SE Fourth St., the Vanderburgh County clinic opened in June 2006 to relieve local hospitals of dental emergency room visits.

To help start the clinic, Deaconess Hospital and St. Mary's Medical Center collectively invested $280,000, $200,000 and $70,000 through 2008.

Since then, its financial outlook has been bleak. The Health Department's $100,000 contributions to run the approximately $280,000-a-year operation started in 2009 - the same year its source fund stopped growing and began dwindling. …

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