'We are not covering our operating costs at all': Inside a dental clinic on the chopping block

The future of a Vermont dental clinic opened to increase accessibility is now up in the air after being faced with staffing shortages and operating losses, the Bennington Banner reported Aug. 4.

Bennington-based Southwestern Vermont Medical Center opened the dental clinic in 2018. The practice offered a variety of services that were scaled back several months ago to only include emergency care for children. 

In July, a SVMC employee told the news organization the hospital was evaluating options for the clinic.

One challenge the clinic is facing is a lack of staff. It originally started with three dentists, dental hygienists and other support staff. Today, only one dentist remains. 

Thomas Dee, CEO and president of the hospital's parent company, told the news organization it is difficult to recruit providers to rural areas. He also noted several local dentists have retired since the practice's launch, and most young dentists prefer to practice in a group setting.

The hiring challenges are also intertwined with low reimbursement rates. The majority of the clinic's patients are on Medicaid. Despite the state increasing reimbursement rates in July, they are still not high enough to attract new providers. 

Despite fewer overhead costs, the clinic has experienced significant operating losses. Mr. Dee and Michael Brady, DDS, the clinic's sole dentist, have been working with the state for a solution, including securing additional funding. 

Mr. Dee told the news organization the dental clinic was "not really viable long term."

"We are not covering our operating costs at all," Mr. Dee said. "We are always open to an idea, but right now it doesn’t look good." 

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