BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- Penobscot Community Health Care will be ending the pediatric dental residency program. PCHC told NEWS CENTER Tuesday that it will be ending the program this summer to allow the current dental residents in the program finish a full year of training. The issue, among many, too few kids were showing up to get dental care at PCHC.
The residency program started in 2009 with a $700,000 federal grant. The grant was supposed to help start the program along with a general practice residency.
Dental Director Philip Higgins with PCHC said, "It became clear to us over the last eighteen months that the program was not sustainable in the present form. The cost of doing the operational side of the program gave us significant issues that we needed to address."
Currently, there are eight residences enrolled in the pediatric dentistry program. The non-profit will continue the program at least until the summer when the second year residents would graduate. The program is a partnership with Lutheran Medical Center based in New York. It will be up to the medical center to decide whether or not the first year students will continue their residency at PCHC or be transferred to another program location.
Jonathan Shenkin with Augusta Pediatric Dentistry said, "I can see them believing that this was a great opportunity but at the same time the number of patients that you would need to maintain a program of that size is much larger than what exists."
Dr. Higgins tells me there are a couple barriers which kept them from sustaining the program. A lot of the kids are from low income families and many have a hard time getting to appointments with their parents unable to take time off work.
In addition, parents not taking part in preventative care but coming in when their child has a toothache or a situation that requires immediate attention. The cost of having educators to teach the residents is also costly to the non-profit organization.
"Because we are paid on an encounter bases we need to make sure the patients get to their appointments. If they don't get to their appointments no encounter takes place and of course there's no fee that can charge for," said Higgins.
The health care center is not ready to release specific details of the financial hurdles they faced. It is important to stress the pediatric dentistry department will still be staffed and all pediatric patients will be seen.