ASC dispute with Vermont regulators keeps 320 kids waiting for care

A dispute with state regulators is keeping Colchester, Vt.-based Green Mountain Surgery Center from helping to reduce a backlog of 320 young patients who need urgent care, the Burlington Free Press reports.

Insufficient operating room time at UVM Medical Center has left 320 patients of South Burlington-based Timberlane Dental Group, one of Vermont's largest pediatric dental practices, waiting anywhere from a month to a year for treatment. The children, who are as young as 2 years old, need treatment for severe cavity problems and other dental diseases.

"When I see a kid with a blown-out mouth infection everywhere and I have to stare the mother in the eye and say, 'Yes, your child has to be put under anesthesia, however I have to tell you we don't have time until November,' it's heartbreaking," Timberlane Dental Group's Tom Ruescher, DMD, told the Burlington Free Press.

Burlington's UVM Medical Center is unable to give Timberlane more OR time because of an already busy schedule and obligations to other surgeons, Dr. Ruescher said. Moreover, an air quality issue at one of UVM's campuses recently forced temporary OR closures.

Dr. Ruescher said he can't take cases to Green Mountain Surgery Center because the center is embroiled in a dispute with the Green Mountain Care Board. Last year, the state healthcare regulation body restricted the ASC to five previously approved areas of practice, preventing it from offering any pediatric dentistry services.

Green Mountain Surgery Center appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court, claiming that the board's original conditions didn't restrict the types of procedures the center could offer, as long as they were safe in the outpatient setting.

With two operating rooms and four procedure rooms, Green Mountain Surgery Center has the potential to double the amount of OR time available to Timberlane, said GMSC CEO Amy Cooper. It would need to acquire specialized equipment, which would take about a month.

Republican Vermont Gov. Phil Scott told the Free Press that any facility with capacity to deliver "the needed services while reducing the backlog" should be utilized. State Sen. Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden, told the outlet that he'll reach out to UVM leadership and the Green Mountain Care Board to ensure "kids are getting the dental services they need without delay."

More articles on surgery centers:
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