Abbotsford dentist fights interim suspension

Dr. Clark Stelmaschuk -
Dr. Clark Stelmaschuk
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An Abbotsford dentist has been temporarily suspended from practice after the College of Dental Surgeons of BC (CDSBC) received six complaints from patients from 2008 to 2010.

Dr. Clark Stelmaschuk is now fighting to have the interim suspension lifted until the outcome of a disciplinary hearing – scheduled to begin June 8 – is determined.

Stelmaschuk, 68, was suspended by the CDSBC on Feb. 5. The college could have permitted him to continue practising – under monitoring or conditions – until the hearing, but chose to suspend him “in order to protect the public,” according to information posted on their website.

Carmel Wiseman, director of regulations and complaints with the CDSBC, said the specifics of the six complaints cannot be revealed.

“The allegations have not been proven at this time,” she said, adding that the disciplinary hearing in June is open to the public.

However, B.C. Supreme Court civil documents posted online this week indicate the concerns relate to “surgical techniques, diagnostic ability, radiographic interpretation, restorative treatment, implants, record-keeping, pain management protocols and patient relations.”

Stelmaschuk fought in Supreme Court to have the interim suspension lifted, saying he had not been given fair opportunity to respond to the college before the suspension was issued.

The court ruled last Thursday that Stelmaschuk should be given until April 29 to make a submission to the college, and a committee will meet no later than May 10 to discuss whether the suspension should be lifted and, instead, conditions or limits imposed.

One of the six complainants is a patient who received an undisclosed out-of-court settlement from Stelmaschuk after a half-inch piece from a metal or plastic dental instrument broke off in the root cavity of a tooth during a procedure in 2007.

The piece then travelled into the patient’s upper jaw and sinuses, “causing severe and prolonged pain and discomfort, infection, headaches and nausea,” according to Supreme Court civil documents from that case.

In last week’s ruling, the judge stated that “the issues raised by the complainants were wide-ranging but generally involved similar allegations of dental implants gone very wrong, resulting in long-term consequences and pain.”

Speaking to The News, Stelmaschuk said he has shut down his practice on Bourquin Crescent West and does not know when, or if, he will re-open in another location, if the disciplinary hearing determines he can practise again.

He said he has been offered an overseas dentistry-teaching job that he will consider.

Stelmaschuk said the complaints are the result of a bureaucratic system that sees people running to authority instead of trying to work through the problem.

“Essentially, I’ve always tried to do a lot of difficult dentistry and I probably never realized I couldn’t help everybody ... Most people are happy with me, but you’re not going to have everyone that is pleased with you.”

He said the suspension has left him without any source of income, as he is not permitted to work in the field of dentistry in any capacity, including teaching or consulting.

“It’s kind of like being shot in the back.”

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