Sutter extends dental surgery for special needs patients

A meeting on Monday called by California State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has resulted in a short-term solution to ensure that developmentally disabled adults and children in the Sacramento, CA, area have access to oral healthcare.

Until Monday, these patients were facing a deadline, as Sutter Medical Center officials had announced plans to shut down its dental surgery facilities on July 31, according to a story in the Sacramento Bee. Sutter was the last hospital in the area to discontinue its dental surgery program.

However, at the meeting Sutter agreed to keep its dental surgery centers open through September and possibly longer. The meeting included community health leaders, representatives from Sutter Medical Center and other care systems, dentists, anesthesiologists, and advocates for oral healthcare policy.

The solution ensures that developmentally disabled adults and children will continue to have access to oral healthcare procedures, which often require full anesthesia for these patients.

The issue came to a head when Sutter announced in May that the hospital would close its dental surgery facilities at the end of July. Sutter officials said they could no longer afford such care because of low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for low-income and disabled patients, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Increasing Medi-Cal reimbursement and diverting the more functional patients to other dental clinics are issues that need to be resolved, Steinberg said. As such, he announced a new short-term task force to establish clear protocols defining which special needs patients should be seen where.

"There needs to be more information about how to determine the appropriate setting for developmentally disabled patients depending on the severity of their condition," Steinberg told the Bee. "Not everyone who ends up in the hospital needs to be there."

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