Report: DOD needs to improve dental plans for buildup - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Report: DOD needs to improve dental plans for buildup

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - If the military buildup on Guam is to happen, the Department of Defense will have to improve its plans for providing dental care to active duty family members.  That was the main finding of an Inspector General report released this past week.  It was the first in a series of reports regarding the adequacy of medical plans related to the buildup.

The DOD's plans for providing dental care were found to be lacking as the island's dentist to resident ratio would be stretched to 5,000-to-1 and with only 43 civilian dental providers, the Inspector General is concerned that this could result in Guam being designated a health professional shortage area for dental care.

While the report did cite that Navy officials thought that the current TriCare dental program would be sufficient, it did point out that Navy officials failed to fully examine the impacts of the population increase. TriCare management meanwhile disputed the findings believing the DOD had made much more progress in the planning for the population increase and the impact than what was reflected in the report.  They added the visit to the island back in February identifies Guam is growing and TriCare is able to meet the needs of active duty family members.

Military Buildup Committee chairperson Senator Judi Guthertz said, "The Inspector General's report is a little late," she said. "I'm glad they said because they are simply reaffirming what we have said - that the United States Government, the Department of Defense, has a moral obligation to put in place the proper resources to meet the needs of any buildup."

Guthertz adding the IG report is just further proof that the DOD will need to help Guam enhance its medical offerings and opportunities for medical professionals on Guam. Meanwhile governor's special assistant on the military buildup and healthcare Brian San Nicolas responded to the report and believes that the island can handle the increased demand for care as a result of the military buildup.  He said, "At present, our island has more than enough capacity to treat patients who need dental care. On average, one new dentist comes to Guam to help the community and contribute to the economy. All indications show that even before Guam approaches the threshold of being designated a Health Professional Shortage Area, organic market forces will cause the dental community to grow and meet increased demand."

San Nicolas added that the Calvo Administration will continue to watch this issue and ensure both the civilian and military community mutually benefit from the buildup.

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