Chester dental expands as medical services move

By Cynthia Prairie
©2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Springfield Medical Care Systems will expand its dental services at the Ellsworth Building at 55 Route 11 in Chester, adding dental staff and taking over space now occupied by the Chester Health Center.

Chester Family Dental will be adding a new dentist and expanding at the Ellsworth building. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

SMCS will be bringing on a second dentist, by July 1, plus two dental hygienists and more chairs for patients.

Following a rehab to accommodate the expanded dental services, “everything will be up and running” by fall, Joshua Dufrense, chief of Practice Operations for the medical system, said in an interview on Thursday.

The medical care providers — Dr. Robert Schwartz, Dr. Gerald Drabyn, and the two behavioral health specialists — will move to other SMCS facilities. In a press release issued on Friday, SMCS added that “all staff will be relocated for continued employment.”

  • Effective June 1, Dr. Robert Schwartz and Jean White, LICSW, will be seeing patients at Rockingham Health Center, at 1 Hospital Court in Bellows Falls.
  • Dr. Gerald Drabyn has already relocated to Springfield Health Center at 100 River St.
  • Heidi Lowe, LICSW, will split her time among Mountain Valley Health Center at 38 Route 11 in Londonderry, Springfield Health Center at 100 River St. and Ludlow Health at 1 Elm St.

All the services at Chester Health Center and Chester Dental Center are under SMCS.

During the interview, Dufrense said the move was prompted by a 2016 needs assessment based on a survey in which 758 residents within SMCS’s area of service participated.

It found that dental care was an overwhelming need. Of the 350 who answered the question In the last year, I or someone I know, was NOT able to get the following care when needed, 60 percent chose dental care. Following that in the 35 percent to 33 percent range were medical care, mental health care and addiction treatment.

Less than 20 percent of Chester residents use the Chester Health Center for their routine medical needs but instead go to other SMCS facilities such as Springfield Health Center, Mountain Valley and the Rockingham facility.

Adding to the decision was the fact that less than 20 percent of Chester residents use the Chester Health Center for their routine medical needs but instead go to other SMCS facilities such as Springfield Health Center, Mountain Valley and the Rockingham facility.

“We had never really had the clients to support” the Chester clinic, Dufresne said.

He emphasized that helping low income patients, including those with Medicaid coverage, is an important mission of SMCS. “The dental need is an unmet need,” he said.

SMCS’s Joshua Dufresne: ‘The dental need is an unmet need.’

Hospital spokeswoman Anna Smith said, “We really expect that it (the expanded Chester Family Dental) will be a regional hub and that it will bring people to Chester.” She added that Chester residents who go to Rockingham will also find a full complement of care including internal medicine, pediatrics, minor skin surgeries, obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health services among others.

While Dufrense acknowledged that the change could be difficult for some, both he and Smith urged clients to use SMCS’s Health Transit transportation assistance to get to health centers and wellness programs. For more information, call Julie Merrill-Snide 802-885-7604.

What appears to be an emphasis on oral health, Dufrense indicated, is really just re-integrating care that has been fragmented into medical, mental and dental.

The medical system has also undertaken a two-year program to send a dental hygienist into area schools to provide dental services. A grant from the Fanny Holt Ames and Edna Louise Holt Fund, has enabled an SMCS hygenist to visit Cavendish Town, Chester-Andover, Flood Brook in Londonderry, Grafton and Townshend elementary schools.

And, over the summer, Springfield Hospital will be providing dental care to children in day care settings.
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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Chris Curran says:

    We didn’t use Ellsworth for primary medical after the Hertfords left was because we didn’t see eye to eye with the only doctor available. We are glad that Dr. Drabyn is still close by. We don’t use dental services locally because the prices are out of reach. It’s less expensive to take a trip to New Jersey to our lifelong dentist.

  2. Jessica Towle says:

    I’m pleased to see that the dental office will be expanding, I change dentist to this location because it was more convenient but the way is ridiculous and if you need to reschedule an appointment, you have to wait three or four months out. I’m sad that the medical office is leaving the area and people will have to travel a bit farther but glad to see that you will be able to get more regular dental care when you need two or three cleanings a year but you’re only getting one because there are no openings it makes it difficult.

  3. Lorraine Epler says:

    I moved to town because I would be close to doctor, drugstore and hair dresser. First the drugstore pulls out of town but Mark does have delivery service, which is great for us seniors in the winter. Now the clinic will be leaving too and we will have to go to Bellows Falls. This is terrible. I don’t want to drive to Bellows Falls once a month, sometimes several times a month for blood work. I had 8:30 a.m. fasting blood test, car covered with snow and ice I left by 8:15. If I had an appointment in Bellows Falls and the roads are bad, guess what, I won’t go. It’s all about more money not a service to the townspeople. Wasn’t it great when doctors made house calls? I guess not enough money in that. Lorraine Epler, Chester

  4. R. Bliss says:

    The reason only 20 percent used the health care in Chester was there wasn’t any doctors available to see them! There are plenty of people willing to use services if they are there, but very hard to do when there aren’t any there and you don’t have a choice. I personally know more than a dozen people that were forced to go to another town’s health care not because they wanted to, but because they didn’t particularly care for the one doctor and they had no other choice. I think this story is a crock. I doubt when this clinic was given to the town that it was ever meant to be controlled in such a manner!
    R. Bliss

  5. Lorraine Pelletier says:

    To my understanding there will be no more doctors in Chester only dentists in the clinic. Patients will have to travel farther now. I know they will provide transportation for services but what if the person just needs blood work done or some other simple thing? Will they wait for them and transport them back home some people like the convenience of driving themselves, then doing errands around town?