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Jamaica Hospital opens renovated dental center

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The brightly painted walls and shiny new equipment at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s renovated dental facility may almost make patients forget they are there to see a dentist. Almost.

The hospital at 8900 Van Wyck Expressway in Jamaica celebrated its new and expanded center last week with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The center, which opened to patients three weeks ago, includes a 19-chair dental suite and new equipment, and allows the hospital to see 15,000 more patients a year, said Dr. Paul Kaufman, director of the Dental Department for the hospital.

The dental center moved from its 11-room, 7,000-square-foot home in the Administration Building on the hospital’s campus to its current 11,000-square-foot home in the Axel Building, behind the hospital parking garage, because it simply outgrew the old site, Kaufman said.

“We basically outlived our space,” he said. “We didn’t have enough space.”

The Dental Department, with its residency training program for dental students, has been growing since it was founded by Kaufman in 1971 with two chairs and no residents, he said. Each year the program expanded and by 1986 it had moved into the Administration Building. The program now has 10 residents and three hygienists, Kaufman said.

“We have an excellent residency program, but the facility was not comparable,” he said. “Now we have the best of both worlds.”

Last year the department treated 25,000 patients at the Jamaica Center and double that at satellite offices throughout Queens and Brooklyn. But the center was crowded, with patients waiting more than three weeks for appointments, Kaufman said.

The department expects to top 40,000 visits a year in its larger center, he said.

“You can’t go through this facility without feeling a sense of pride,” said David Rosen, president and chief executive officer of Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. “We are providing care to people who need it and they say we’re doing a good job by coming back. We’re not the little hospital we once were.”

Aside from the space and the equipment upgrade, the facility also is much brighter and more colorful than the former one with aquas, purples and blues lining the walls, floors and even dentists’ chairs.

“I call it Pleasantvi­lle,” Kaufman said. “You walk through the drab hospital building and open these doors and everything’s in Technicolor.”

Borough President Helen Marshall also admired the cheerful office, and praised the hospital and the department for its work.

“This is a beautiful, beautiful dental lab,” she said. “I don’t know if we have as an extensive laboratory in the city. You’re changing old factory buildings into miracles.”

And the new laboratory will help the hospital and the department provide better care for their patients, said Dr. Barry Weinberg, clinical director for the program.

“We’ve been given a friendly facility that tells patients and staff that Jamaica Hospital cares about them in every way,” Weinberg said. “This center is the beginning of better dentistry for the people of New York City.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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