Frederiksted Health Care is opening a new clinic on the outskirts of Christiansted, adding four dental chairs in a clinic stocked with state-of-the-art equipment, with plans for a dental residency program next year.
The new facility "triples our beds," said Dr. Talia Moses, chief dental officer at Frederiksted Health Center, at a brief ribbon-cutting for the new office in the Easterly Building at 1E Estate Orange Grove. Moses and FHC opened up a clinic with two beds in Frederiksted in February. Now, with these four new beds, FHC has six beds to serve the community.
FHC is a federally qualified community health center focused on providing primary health care to St. Croix to the insured, under-insured or uninsured. It makes services available by offering a sliding fee program for patients who may be uninsured or under-insured.
Since opening dental services in Frederiksted, the clinic has served "upwards of 1,600 patients," Moses said at the ceremony. "But there is still a waiting list of nearly 700 patients."
The new clinic is scheduled to open for business Oct. 9, Moses said. "We are putting the priority on serving those in the waiting list, in the order they signed up," she said.
The clinic has been serving a growing number of patients. FHC has seen a steady increase in patient visits over the past half decade, with 9,250 patients in 2007; 14,744 in 2010; and 16,795 patients projected for the current year, FHC Chief Executive Officer Masserae Sprauve Webster told the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month.
In February the clinic began offering dentistry, and since then, the Health Department closed its dental services, making the clinic the sole provider of affordable dental care on St. Croix, Webster said at Friday's Ceremony.
The new clinic "won't clear up the backlog overnight, but we are on our way," Webster said.
Two dentists – Dr. Denise Colbert and Dr. Jennifer James – will work part-time at the new clinic, while Moses will continue seeing patients in Frederiksted, Moses said.
Until recently, the building housed the dental practice of Dr. Richard Freabel, who built the building opened his practice there in 1979. Freabel is leasing the building to FHC and donated his dental practice and all its equipment to FHC.
The expansion of this new site is in collaboration with Lutheran Health Care of Brooklyn New York. LHC initially received a grant to purchase dental equipment to provide oral health care to people living with HIV/AIDS. That grant ended in 2011, and the equipment, though purchased, had yet to be put to use.
Digital dental records and digital X-ray imaging are among the clinic's features.
"It is designed to be a paperless system," Moses said, showing how each suite has a monitor on a movable arm, to display dental records, treatment diagrams, graphic illustrations and digital imaging. "Right now it's a hybrid, as we started the Frederiksted clinic using paper records, and we will be transitioning to all digital."
There will be more low-cost care for St. Croix's citizens starting next year, when LHC will be supplying FHC with licensed dentists through a residency program where residents complete accredited advanced training in a community-based setting. The dental residents from LHC will spend at least one year working alongside FHC staff and providing care to members of the community who seek the services of the health center. They get advanced training and pay. Funding for the residents' salaries will come from LHC, not FHC, Carolyn Gray of LHC said Friday.
LHC currently overseas more than 200 dental and medical residents in locations across the U.S. This residency program will be their third in the Caribbean, joining a program at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan, and one at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, she said.