Bill would protect dental patients

State legislation spurred by the late senator gets support in hearing from area residents


Dental Malpractice Bill | Patrick O'Connell Law Office
Or. Kalmen A. Feinberg. left, and his wife, Margaret, of Exeter Township and Patrick O’Connell, their Bloomsburg attorney, meet in Harrisburg after testifying Thursday before the state House of Representatives Insurance Committee on legislation to require dentists to carry malpractice insurance.

HARRISBURG – Three Berks County residents testified here Thursday before the state House of Representatives Insurance Committee to support a bill that would require all 10,000 dentists in the state to carry malpractice insurance.

Margaret Feinberg and her husband, Dr. Kalmen A. Feinberg, of Exeter Township and Elmer Gardner of Wyomissing all said it is essential for the House to pass Senate Bill 388 to protect Pennsylvanians from dentists who lack insurance.

All three said they were victims of Dr. Gregory Pedro, who operated Fine Arts Dental in Wyomissing and charged tens of thousands of dollars for complex procedures he was incapable of performing.

Stories on the Feinbergs and other former patients of Pedro that appeared in the Reading Eagle in December 2010 led to calls for changes in the state law.

The late Sen. Michael A. O’Pake, a Reading Democrat, was the first to call for reform when he learned dentists are not required to carry malpractice insurance. It was one of his last legislative initiatives before he died in December 2010.

Sen. Pat Vance, a Republican who represents Cumberland and York counties, introduced the bill last year. The Senate passed it unanimously last summer.

“lt is my privilege to sponsor this legislation on behalf of the late Sen. Mike O’Pake,” Vance said Thursday. “This issue came to light after a Berks County dentist allegedly provided poor care to patients.”

During the hearing, Margaret Feinberg said she has endured years of painful and expensive surgeries to repair damage caused by Pedro.

“Hopefully the passage of this legislation will close what is an obvious and glaring loop-hole wherein providers of dental services who are permitted to diagnose and treat diseases, prescribe medications and perform surgery are not required to carry malpractice insurance,” she testified. “The protection of the citizens of the commonwealth of Pennsylvanio requires that every dental practitioner carry malpractice insurance and that SB 388 be passed into law.”

Kalmen Feinberg said he and his wife have been fighting for tighter regulation of dentists since 2008 so that no one else will be victimized.

“We feel good but it’s something that should’ve been in place ages ago,” Kalmen Feinberg said after the hearing. It’s slow, but it’s progress.

“But it’s not just about insurance – qualifications, certifications and competency also need to be addressed to protect the public. It took four years of hard work (getting the law changed). It has not been an easy road.