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LETTER: Local pediatrician says health unit's handling of Orillia dentist is a 'travesty'

Taxpayer money has been wasted and a reputation has been tarnished, letter writer says
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OrilliaMatters received the following letter from Nicky Jones-Stokreef in response to stories about a local dentist who, according to the regional health authority, may have exposed patients to risks.

No one likes going to the dentist.

But for thousands of Ontario children with special needs, finding a dentist who is willing to treat their dental problems can be life-changing. Imagine a child with severe Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Simply brushing their teeth can be an overwhelming sensory experience. Without proper care, cavities develop which can be painful and contribute to behaviour problems.

As a developmental pediatrician who diagnoses and treats children with ASD, I see families struggle with this first-hand. Regular visits to the dentist are an important part of health maintenance for everyone and is especially important for those with developmental disorders.

In Orillia, children with special needs are lucky to have access to a dentist who has the expertise and experience to treat their dental pain. Dr. Joe Philip, a dentist who trained at the Hospital for Sick Children, has been helping children in cottage country for almost 18 years.

His patients and their families love the service he provides. But a recent investigation by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has unnecessarily jeopardized the work of this dentist, his colleagues, and staff.

Initiated by a disgruntled past employee, the public health investigation looked into infection prevention and control practices. Despite the absence of any patient harm or complaint, and no evidence that dental treatment can transmit infections, a public statement was issued by (the health unit). Patients have been unnecessarily frightened, expensive blood testing for infections has been called for, and the good work of the dental practice has been called into question.

As taxpayers, we want our public health service to ensure proper infection control practices are followed in a cost-effective way that balances the science, risk to the public, and adherence to accepted guidelines. No risk to the public exists in this case, taxpayers’ money has been wasted, and a reputation has been tarnished. It is time to revisit how the public health service conducts such infection control audits and avoid this unnecessary travesty.

In the meantime, I will be telling my patients to keep seeking their dental care from Dr. Philip.

Nicky Jones-Stokreef, MD, FRCP(C)
Developmental Pediatrician


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