Dental Council ‘put public at risk’

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The dental licence of Dr Nicholas Smith should have been stripped years earlier, according to a prominent member of the Nelson dental profession, who says members of the public were put at risk.

Dr Nicholas Smith closed his Stoke clinic this month after years of complaints and a conviction for fraud. His business went into liquidation owing $164,948 to patients who had pre-paid for dental work, staff, the IRD and other unsecured creditors.

But one member of the dental profession, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says the Dental Council should have stepped in years earlier, and blames it for putting the public at risk. “They really haven’t done the public any favours. They haven’t done the profession any favours or Nic any favours, really. Given the long list of issues over the years, they’ve got an obligation under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act to protect the public, and there’s a general feeling amongst the dental community that they haven’t fulfilled their obligation.”

The Dental Council did not renew Dr Smith’s practicing licence and he handed in his registration at the start of this month.

Other Nelson dentists are now working to make sure Dr Smith’s patients are cared for, but none would speak on the record to Nelson Weekly after an email circulated asking for them not to speak to media. But the source says dentists are helping. “The key message is that the wider dental community are coming together and really want to support the patients.”

Chief executive of the Dental Council, Marie Warner, was unavailable for comment.

Liquidator, Geoff Falloon, says another dental practise has bought the former Stoke Dental Clinic. His liquidator report shows 38 patients are owed money, including one for $3100.

It also shows the shareholders bank account is overdrawn by $550,349.