The Georgia Board of Dentistry on Friday rejected a proposed rule that public health officials feared would have restricted dental hygienists’ work with low-income...

The Georgia Board of Dentistry on Friday rejected a proposed rule that public health officials feared would have restricted dental hygienists’ work with low-income patients.

Several health groups had said the provision, if approved, would require a dentist to examine a patient before a hygienist can apply sealants, clean teeth and perform other preventive dental services in a public health setting.

Hygienists currently can visit schools and Head Start centers without being accompanied by a dentist, the health groups said. If a dentist had to examine each child first, it could make such trips cost-prohibitive, hygienists said.

The Georgia Dental Association, representing dentists, said the proposed change would have provided necessary clarification of the rules of supervision for dental hygienists.

The dental board, though, heard plenty of opposition to the rule, both through letters from health groups and testimony at its Macon meeting Friday. The board sent the proposal back to its Rules Committee for further work, which means the controversy may come up again soon.

Janeime Asbury, president of the Georgia Dental Hygienists’ Association, called the board vote ‘’a victory for public health.’’ But she also expressed concern about the prospect of a revised proposal. “The war is not over,’’ she said.

Separately, Grady Medical Center and Fresenius Medical Care gave more details about their agreement for dialysis care to immigrant patients.

Starting Friday, 21 dialysis patients will resume regular treatment at Fresenius clinics in the area, Grady and Fresenius announced in a joint statement.

The contract, signed Thursday, is for three years, with the possibility of extensions. Grady will help cover the cost of the dialysis, paying Fresenius an estimated $325,000 per year, or $15,500 per patient.

Twenty-two patients had been left in limbo after a contract for their care expired Aug. 31.

Under the expired contract, Grady had paid Fresenius $750,000 for a year’s care of the uninsured immigrants. They had been Grady patients until the Atlanta hospital closed its outpatient dialysis clinic two years ago due to large financial losses.

One of the 22 patients has left the United States, so 21 will be served under the contract. The patients are not U.S. citizens, and most are not in the country legally.

Dorothy Leone-Glasser of Advocates for Responsible Care, a consumer advocacy group, called the agreement “a wonderful relief.’’

For a week, patients had medical complications while wondering whether they would receive the dialysis they needed to survive, she said.

“I don’t think that they could have gone another week of this,’’ Leone-Glasser said.

“We have to be working on a permanent solution,’’ beyond the three years of the agreement, she said.

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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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