Wilmington woman continues to push for new requirements for dental anesthesiology

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – It’s been more than two years since Dr. Henry Patel went into a Wilmington dentist’s office for a routine procedure that ended up claiming his life. During that time, his wife, Shital Patel, has been fighting for changes to the rules related to anesthesia procedures by the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners.

“Our goal is very, very simple. We just want to stop anyone from passing away or dying because it’s preventable. I think that it should be required that everyone follow the medical model, which is if a medical doctor can’t do a procedure and administer anesthesia at the same time in a hospital setting, why is it okay for oral surgeons to do that?” Patel said.

During the public hearing, dental professionals spoke out against implementing a medical model and said that requiring it could be cost-prohibitive for patients and that it would limit access to care.

On Thursday, the board met for a public hearing to discuss the proposed rule changes but did not take any action. Bobby White, the Dental Board’s CEO, told WECT in August that the board received more public comments on this topic than any other issue in the Board’s history and reviewed 1,300 pages of comments.

The proposed changes include:

  • Requiring the use of capnography to contemporaneously monitor a patient’s breathing, level of sedation, airway management, and timely delivery of other critical information to the sedation provider.
  • Imposing limits on the maximum dosage of medications that sedation providers can administer.
  • Enhancing the requirements for reporting adverse occurrences.

The public comment period for the changes is open until December, and the board will likely vote on the proposed changes then.

As previously reported by WECT, according to a disciplinary action filed by the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners, “[Dr. Austin] administered sedative agents to patient [Henry Patel] prior to and during the procedure. Towards the end of the procedure, patient H.P.’s oxygen saturation levels began to drop significantly. [Dr. Austin] took certain measures to address H.P.’s de-saturation, such as attempting ventilation, an unsuccessful effort to place an endotracheal tube, and contacting 911, but H.P.’s oxygen levels remained in the 60-70% range for at least 20 minutes. When EMS arrived at [Dr. Austin’s] office at 3:50 P.M., patient H.P. was pulseless and apneic and in an asystole heart rhythm. [Dr. Austin] had not initiated CPR prior to arrival of EMS.”

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