Mobile dental service closing


POSTED: Tuesday, February 03, 2009

HILO » After 12 years of bringing dental services in two specially equipped vans to needy Big Islanders, the Mobile Care Health Project will close in June, St. Francis Healthcare System announced.

The mobile project has succeeded in sparking dental care at seven nonprofit community health center sites, St. Francis said.

The program, operated by St. Francis and the Office of Social Ministry of the Catholic Church, got its start in response to a preventable death due to dental infection in 1992, St. Francis said.

Lance Lawrence, 38, developed a dental infection that year but, being a welfare recipient, could not find a dentist in time to treat the infection. Before he died, his neck had swollen to three times its normal size, according to an account at the time.

Mobile Care, vans outfitted with dental chairs and equipment, was created in response, but it was always meant as a temporary solution, said Carol Ignacio, of the Office for Social Ministry.

It has served 18,600 patients and provided services worth $1.6 million, St. Francis said.

The Mobile Care van in East Hawaii will be taken over next month by the Bay Clinic in Hilo. The West Hawaii van will be operated by a new Pediatric Dental Clinic in Kealakekua in July, and a new van will be operated soon by the Hamakua Health Center.