Tinian and Rota lawmakers are opposing proposed amendments to the dentistry regulations, saying they are “too restrictive” for licensing health care professionals in the field of dentistry and will result in limited dental services to the community.
Members of the Rota and Tinian Legislative delegations, however, commended the CNMI Health Care Professionals Licensing Board's intent to establish clear and comprehensive regulations for dentists, specialists, dental hygienists, dental therapists, and dental assistants.
Tinian Legislative Delegation chair Senate Vice President Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian) and Rota Legislative Delegation chair Sen. Juan Ayuyu (Ind-Rota), along with the other members, raised concerns about two specific areas in the proposed rules.
Under the proposed amendments, only U.S. or Canadian educated and licensed hygienists will be allowed to clean patients' teeth.
This will prevent Philippine-trained dentists and dental hygienists who have passed Philippine board exams, and locally trained citizens who have taken HCPLB-sanctioned dental hygienist courses of training and exams, from cleaning teeth and administering non-life threatening procedures, the lawmakers told the licensing board.
They also said that with the hospital terminating its dental program, “uncertified” hygienists who have worked legally in this profession for years will be unable to work in the private sector because of the board's new requirements.
“As a comparison to this proposed scenario, the CNMI currently allows nurses, who are not educated and trained in the U.S., to deal with life-threatening medical situations, work in the ER [emergency room] and give injections,” the lawmakers said in an Aug. 22 letter to the licensing board.
The lawmakers also said the proposed restrictions will greatly affect Rota and Tinian, as well as low-income residents throughout the CNMI who do not have access to U.S.-certified dental clinics.
“Furthermore, this will create a monopoly for the few dental clinics who do already have established U.S. training connections,” they said.
The lawmakers' second main concern is the licensing board's proposed regulation allowing dental therapists to be foreign trained, but not dental hygienists and dentists.
“Many Philippine-trained dentists start their careers in the U.S./CNMI as dental hygienists, and this practice will discontinue with the proposed HCPLB regulations,” the lawmakers told the board.
They also said that the CNMI, like places in isolated parts of Alaska, depends on dental therapist to perform basic dental procedures under indirect supervision, including performing emergency examinations, basic fillings, x-ray interpretations, and simple pain-reducing treatments, until further care can be administered by a dentist.
“Dental therapists should not replace dentists, nor should they be restricted to a role similar to a dental assistant. Please review these comments and make modifications to your proposed regulations where necessary to accommodate our residents and avoid sacrificing their need for proper dental care,” the lawmakers added.
Besides Hofschneider and Ayuyu, the other signatories to the letter were Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota), Sen. Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota), Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian), and Rep. Trenton Conner (R-Tinian).
The Health Care Professions Licensing Board issued in August a public notice about its proposed amendments to the regulations for dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapists, dental assistants, and acupuncturists in the Vol. 34, No. 07, July 29, 2012 publication of the Commonwealth Register. The notice allowed for a 30-day public comment period.