Saturday, January 20, 2018
Health

Pasco dentist reopens office after several allegations are dropped

SPRING HILL — A dentist whose license was suspended last month after allegations of Medicaid fraud and pulling patients' healthy teeth is back in practice.

An administrative law judge dismissed several charges related to unacceptable standards in operating her office and an appeals court granted a stay of the license suspension, allowing Miranda Smith to reopen her practice on June 9.

Still pending is a criminal case against Smith, 46, who is charged with two counts of Medicaid fraud. An affidavit filed in Pasco court details horror stories about patients' healthy teeth being pulled needlessly, children being told they had cavities that didn't exist and dentures not fitting after they were made. Smith went to jail and was released after posting $20,000 bail.

The state Attorney General's Office is prosecuting that case. No hearings have been set, and it's not clear how the criminal case might be affected by the administrative proceeding.

The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee granted the stay on the license suspension that the state Department of Health's Board of Dentistry had imposed. She was accused of aiding unlicensed dental work by other employees in her office, not keeping her office up to acceptable standards, deceptive practices, diagnosing unnecessary work, and fraud and deceit. An administrative law judge dismissed all of those counts, according to court documents.

Smith operates Smiles and Giggles Dentistry on County Line Road and still faces two counts: an allegation she delegated her responsibilities as dentist to her employees and another she used anesthesia on patients without a permit.

She is allowed to practice until the appeal is ruled on.

"The ruling is going to be a while," said John Terrel, the attorney who represents her in the administrative case. "A briefing schedule takes months."

He expects a decision near the end of the year.

According to Terrel, who is representing Smith's appeal of her license suspension, the patients' stories in the administrative complaint were not substantiated. He said he interviewed all of them, and their testimony contradicted information in the allegations.

"As far as standard of care is concerned," he said, "every allegation listed in the administrative complaint was unfounded. There are clearly issues with the Department of Health's case."

The Department of Health did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Terrel said the genesis of the complaints, and Smith's subsequent arrest, are two racist ex-employees. Those employees, he said, were ultimately dropped as witnesses.

In a written statement to the Times, Smith said the allegations against her are all three years old and false, and added that her license suspension has already caused many insurance companies to remove as a practitioner.

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