Dental clinic unable to fill gap; closing

MARIETTA – After seven years serving the local community the Southeastern Ohio Dental Clinic closed its Marietta office this month, citing the inability to find a full-time dentist as the main reason for the closure.

“We were given a deadline of Aug. 16 by the county board of health to hire a full-time dentist. We exhausted all of our resources but were unable to find one,” said Court Witschey, administrator for the Washington County Health Department, which had operated the clinic since 2006.

Dr. Dale White, who had served as the clinic dentist for several years, resigned in late June due for personal reasons, which forced the clinic to temporarily close until Belpre dentist Dr. Colleen O’Brien agreed to fill the post on an interim part-time basis for 24 hours a week.

“She only worked for us a couple of weekends, on Friday and Saturday,” Witschey said. “But she couldn’t make a full-time commitment to the clinic.”

The dental facility started off on shaky financial footing early this year with the loss of a $59,000 Ohio Department of Health grant that provided partial support for the clinic. But Witschey said some changes in the clinic’s operation had put it in better fiscal shape.

“As far as 2013, we lost the grant, but new policies we made were covering that loss,” he said. “The clinic was actually sustaining itself through June. But without a dentist there’s no way we could continue to operate the clinic.”

Brenda Poynter, an Expanded Functional Dental Auxiliary and Dental Assistant at the clinic, said many of the clinic’s customers were not aware the site had closed.

“I’m going in a couple hours here and there (to work on accounts) and the phone just rings constantly. People are coming to the door. They’re upset,” Poynter said of the patrons who are now being advised to travel to similar clinics in Caldwell or Meigs County for service.

Witschey said Aug. 10 was the last day the clinic was open, but until the Aug. 16 deadline officials were hoping to be able to hire a dentist and save the facility.

Jasmine Rogers contributed to this story.