AZ Senate Health Committee chair Nancy Barto questions state dental board after ABC15 investigation

The head of the state senate health committee is demanding answers from Arizona’s dental board after an ABC15 investigation.

Sen. Nancy Barto, R – Phoenix, has sent the Arizona Board of Dental Examiners a list of questions and called ABC15’s reports concerning.

“I want to bring up some issues that were uncovered, so to speak, by ABC15 in a 4- or 5-part series,” said Sen. Barto, during a senate hearing last week. “I think it’s important that we look at some of these issues.”

Barto publicly discussed the investigation before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, which was set to vote on a bill that would require dental professionals to undergo a complete background check before being allowed to practice in our state.

The committee unanimously approved the bill.

Specifically, Sen. Barto raised questions about the public’s ability to access hundreds of dental board actions that are essentially hidden from the public. She also had concerns about the board’s disciplinary process, cases highlighted in ABC15’s report and whether the complaint process was fair.

Some of the same issues were also raised in a 2014 state audit.

“Now we have this expose where some of the same issues are still problems where you have inconsistent discipline being meted out,” Barto said. “There’s a lot of concern.”

ABC15 exposed how 70 percent of actions aren’t posted on the dental board’s website because they’ve been labeled “non-discipline.” By state law, the board is not allowed to post those publicly even though they’re public records.

On behalf of the dental board, lobbyist Stuart Goodman spoke at the hearing.

Goodman acknowledged that Sen. Barto has sent a “number of questions” that the board is working through. He also admitted – at least partially – that the dental board can make improvements when it comes to the transparency of non-disciplinary actions on its website.

“There are better ways to provide the information,” he said.

Goodman also discussed a state law passed in 2010 that prohibits non-disciplinary actions, which are supposed to address minor issues, from being posted on state boards’ websites.

The 2010 law was HB2545.

“Is that good or bad policy? That’s certainly a good question,” he said. “That’s not the board acting inappropriately. That’s the board following perhaps a flawed state law.”

But ABC15 reviewed thousands of pages of dental board actions from 2010 through 2014. Our findings raise questions about whether Arizona’s dental board is going easy on dentists by under-classifying serious matters as non-discipline.

In the past five years, the board issued 282 non-disciplinary actions. In those files, we found:

There are also many non-disciplinary actions that address quality of care issues.

We also obtained a 2014 board newsletter to dental professionals that says it’s “good news” that non-disciplinary actions are hidden from the public and purged after five years.

READ THE NEWSLETTER

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at dbiscobing@abc15.com

 

 

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