06/22/06 — Wayne County dental clinic losing money

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Wayne County dental clinic losing money

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 22, 2006 1:48 PM

The Wayne County Health Department is losing money on its dental clinic, prompting the county Board of Health to approve policy changes Wednesday to expand the sliding fee scale.

Health Director James Roosen said the dental clinic lacks the money needed to be self-sufficient.

"We're losing money. We have been subsidizing our clinic with revenue and expenses, but at the moment we're not breaking even; we're going in the hole," he said.

He said there is a need to expand the sliding fee scale and set minimum fees at the clinic.

"What we have been doing is allowing folks who qualify not to pay anything. That's costing us in the neighborhood of $10,000 a month," he said. Even if patients paid a portion of the service charges, it would offset some of the costs, he added.

Roosen said the Health Department wants to treat everyone equally, so having policies in writing will make them easier to enforce.

"Our mission is we want to be here for everybody who needs dental care. At the same time, we do need to make sure we cover our expenses ... have a little bit of revenue," he said.

Board member Terry Frazier made a motion that the board approve the policy changes, with the stipulation that the matter be reviewed again in six months. The board unanimously approved the motion.

Roosen said he is also in the process of applying for a grant from United Way to cover some expenses for folks he called "tweeners" because they are between Medicaid and having a job; they also typically have children but limited insurance.

The $40,000 grant money would cover expenses for those unable to afford even the proposed sliding scale.

"We have got to keep a real close eye on the dental clinic," Roosen said. "We don't want to have to go to the county commissioners and ask for money. We live and die on our revenues."

Board member Cynthia Wiley, who is a dentist, suggested involving dental students to spend time working in the clinic on a rotational basis. She said she would investigate the possibility.