Dental clinic no longer accepting new patients; Advocates seek solution
In her 25 years as an advocate for children’s health, Linda Margaretic has seen a vast improvement in dental care for children from low-income families, but that is changing.
“I don’t want to see us go backwards,” Margaretic told the directors of Plumas District Hospital during their meeting Feb. 6.
“The dental problem needs a community solution.”
CEO, Plumas District Hospital
Margaretic approached the board during public comment because she is concerned about the lack of dental care available for Medi-Cal youth patients in Quincy.
“Dr. Patel is overwhelmed,” Margaretic said of the dentist who practices at Feather River Family Dentistry, the clinic affiliated with Plumas District Hospital. The clinic is no longer accepting new patients, whether they are on Medi-Cal or not.
Margaretic met with hospital CEO Doug Lafferty about the potential to hire another dentist.
“Doug Lafferty said it’s a money loser and he would close it if it weren’t Medi-Cal,” she said.
While clinics in Greenville and Portola are accepting new patients, Margaretic said that’s not a viable option for low-income families in Quincy who have transportation challenges.
Margaretic is looking for solutions, such as allowing the clinic’s hygienist, who has received advanced training, to perform exams and minor work. She suggested that the hygienist could function similarly to a physician’s assistant in a doctor’s office.
“My plea is to brainstorm, to form an ad hoc committee,” she said.
Because Margaretic addressed the board during public comment, the directors did not respond to her comments.
But later in the meeting, Director Kathy Price offered to serve on the committee that Margaretic had suggested.
CEO Lafferty said that he thought the issue couldn’t be solved by the hospital alone.
“The dental problem needs a community solution,” he said.
Lafferty added that he contacted local dentists to see if they would be willing to spend an afternoon in the clinic but had received no response.
A little history
Margaretic is the health services manager for Sierra Cascade Families Opportunities Head Start. The organization serves Lassen, Modoc, Plumas and Sierra counties.
Head Start serves low-income prenatal mothers and children from birth to age 5 and most are covered by Medi-Cal.
Head Start is charged with helping families establish medical and dental care.
“Our mandate is consistent with the 2012 Plumas County Health Improvement Plan,” Margaretic said. Plumas District Hospital, Seneca Healthcare District, Eastern Plumas Health Care, Greenville Rancheria and the Plumas County Public Health Agency signed the plan.
The plan’s first goal is to improve access to health care, which is what Margaretic hopes to accomplish.