Health department optimistic about finding a dentist

Posted 5/22/23

 After a long and frustrating search for a dentist at the Edgar County Public Health Department, there is a spark of hope.

“I have been talking to a dentist who is interested in our …

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Health department optimistic about finding a dentist


 After a long and frustrating search for a dentist at the Edgar County Public Health Department, there is a spark of hope.

“I have been talking to a dentist who is interested in our program,” said Monica Dunn, health department administrator.

She briefed the health department board about the progress during the Wednesday, May 17, meeting. The board lacked a quorum, so no action was taken on any matters, but reports and discussion are permitted.

Dunn described the candidate, who lives in Colorado, as a dentist who has completed her residency and worked in public health before accepting a job with a corporate dental operation where she is required to work four chairs at a time.

Another positive is the dentist desires to move to this part of Illinois and contacted Dunn after seeing the vacancy on the health department’s web page.

“We spent all of that money advertising and it was our web page that did it,” said Dunn.

The need to raise the dentist’s starting salary was discussed during the board’s April meeting. The $155,000 salary is considered low by professional standards. Dunn said the candidate is seeking a salary of at least $180,000.

Board members at the April meeting asked for more information to be sure money is available through the dental program to justify the increase.

Dunn’s May report included financial statements from fiscal years 2019 through 2021 indicating the entire dental program does generate enough money to absorb the additional cost, and having a dentist will increase the amount of billables ECPHD can submit for payment.

“When a new dentist comes on, they will be booked for months out,” said Dunn, regarding the demand and need for services.

Board member Rodney Wolfe asked for caution. He said more is involved than a higher salary since the health department will also pay more in benefits such as health insurance, retirement, Social Security and other matters.

Jason Graham, who is a practicing dentist and board member, acknowledged Wolfe’s concerns but did not want to derail the opportunity. Graham noted this is the first viable candidate the department has had in several years, and he is reluctant to lose out for approximately $25,000.

Board chairman Edward Rico, a physician at Horizon Health, was eager to continue negotiations,.

“It is important that we have somebody who is interested in public health, and who wants to live in the area,” said Rico. “That’s very exciting.”

He emphasized it is difficult finding medical professionals willing to serve in rural areas, so the importance of this opportunity cannot be overstated.

“This should not be tabled for another meeting,” said Graham. “We need to make a decision soon.”

Those present agreed to a special meeting 7 a.m. Monday, April 22.

Dunn did have some disturbing news to share.

There was an attempt to firebomb the health department’s new dental van that has been in service for a few weeks.

She explained one evening while the van was parked on the health department’s property, an unknown perpetrator placed a mesh bag with combustible material in the fuel intake and set the bag on fire.

According to Dunn, the van’s safety features prevented any flames from reaching the fuel tank. The Paris Police Department is investigating the matter.

Her recommendation to the board was increasing security by adding doors to an outside shed where the van is normally parked. The obstacle is the estimated price for the doors is $3,000, which exceeds her pre-authorized $2,000 spending limit.

She needed board approval, but without a quorum the board could not act on her request.

“This is an emergency,” said Wolfe. “You need to act — at least get the doors ordered.”