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West Kootenay TEETH Clinic re-opens two years after arson burned out clinic

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
March 3rd, 2024

Two years is a long time to wait.

So when an arson fire at the West Kootenay TEETH Clinic on Feb. 22, 2022 totally destroyed the facility, all of its equipment and supplies — at an approximate cost of $500,000 — it took almost two years for the community dental clinic to be revived.

Located in the West Arm Plaza, the clinic — which offered low cost dental services to low income Kootenay residents — had “strong support from many dentists and clinic offices with the donation of much of our required equipment,” said clinic office manager and West Kootenay Community TEETH Clinic Society board member Barry Nelson.

“This did mean that we needed to travel somewhat on a couple of occasions to pick up equipment donated, including cabinetry and specific dental operatory equipment,” he said.

Because of the clinic’s insurance coverage it was able to keep two of its employees on salary during the closed period.

“The dentists we had before the fire were employed in other dental offices and some have returned to provide dental care now since we have re-opened October 23,” Nelson said. “All our registered low income client were affected, but thanks to other dental offices we were able to arrange for emergency care both in Nelson and in Trail. This did mean additional treatment costs for us, but again our insurance provided some cost recovery.”

Prior to the arson fire the clinic offered 11 days of full service dental care since 2019 to around 2,500 registered low income families and seniors.

Since re-opening the clinic has the services of five dentists providing eight days per month of service, as well as a hygienist working four days each month. Dentists work one to two days per month.

“With the new federal government Dental Care program we do expect to have a significant increase of new clients and, therefore, would hope to increase our number of days of dental services,” said Nelson. “Therefore we are hoping to have other dentists offer some days of service, a day a week, a month, once every few months or even a day a year.”

The clinic could also accept partial days from a dentist able to provide such a commitment.

“As we do receive some payment for treatments provided, reduced below the regular scheduled fees, therefore we are able to offer some payment to all our staff,” Nelson explained. “But thankfully some of our dentists now even do volunteer services on their individual days. As a few do have to travel some distance we are able to offer travel support.”

Deeper dive

The clinic has operated as a registered society and dental clinic since 2014 in Nelson out of the office of Dr. Matthew Osepchook, when the clinic was not operating on a Friday or a weekend day.

The clinic also has a couple of satellite facilities in Trail and Castlegar that have also offered low income patient services for several years.

In order to qualify for the low income reduced fees for treatment people must complete an application and be approved at one of the intake locations (see teethclinicwk.ca for further information).

“As we are a registered charity we are able to provide tax receipts for any donation of $20 or more, and donators names are recorded on our office Donors Wall,” said Nelson. “All donated funds are used to assist patients who are unable to cover costs for the discounted fees.”

Get involved

If there is a dentist who would like to reduce their number of days work each week the clinic would welcome the opportunity of negotiating an annual contract. Those interested can call (1-778-463-2242) or email the clinic (teethclinicwk@gmail.com) and speak with the office manager, Barry Nelson.

For additional information check out teethclinicwk.ca.

Categories: General