The gleaming new clinic is decked out with special dental chairs, an X-ray machine and state-of-the-art equipment. Clinic staff had begun scheduling appointments and treating children and making preparations for a grand opening.
But last week, the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition Board learned that the clinic's dentist, Dr. Joanna Hokanson, had resigned barely two weeks into the clinic's unofficial opening.
Beginning April 1, the clinic staff had planned to have a "soft opening," whereby they took some appointments and started learning how to schedule patients and handle billing issues.
Turns out that was a good idea, because with the dentist's departure, the clinic staff won't be able to do restorative work until they find a new dentist.
The news dampened the announcement that the coalition had received nearly twice what it requested from the Denver-based Gates Family Foundation.
But board members are confident they'll overcome this bump in the road. Some even suggested it was a blessing in disguise. Better to have this kind of issue resolved before the clinic was fully open than after months of appointments had been scheduled.
The board already is trying to come up with creative solutions to keep seeing patients in the interim. Perhaps they'll find a dentist willing to pitch in for a few weeks while the search for a replacement is conducted.
We think it's important for the community to understand that these kind of developments happen. There's no need to assign blame or suspect that there are problems with the coalition board or staff. Hokanson simply recognized the organization wasn't a good fit for her, and she decided to return to Texas.
But she deserves some praise and sincere thanks for helping the clinic go from a concept to a reality. She guided some important aspects of the clinic -- how to bill for Medicaid patients, for example. She also had a hand in the installation of the equipment and the design of the office. She even picked up a paintbrush and did some "grunt work" to help the clinic save a few bucks that could go toward patient care.
Hokanson's departure doesn't threaten the future of the organization. It's still a well-funded and well-respected public health organization that is ready to make a difference.
The coalition has weathered an embezzlement scandal that nearly caused the nonprofit to fold. Since then, the coalition has rebounded and expanded its services. With the opening of the dental office, it has made huge strides since those dark days. We're sorry the board has to go through the process of finding a new dentist, but we're confident the clinic will be a first-rate success, and we look forward to the grand opening celebration.