Dental office battles dangerous heat, says landlord isn’t fixing AC

Inspire Dental is known for serving people with disabilities. But now, vulnerable patients are dealing with uncomfortable conditions.

SAN ANTONIO — A dental clinic that specializes in serving people with disabilities says their work is being put at risk.

As the city deals with heat warnings, Inspire Dental of SA is left without air conditioning.

“We have had no AC or heat since December,” said Dr. Andre Jones, who owns the business. “We had a freeze earlier this year and it was 30 degrees in our office. As this heat picks up, it’s been hot. There has been a lack of response in fixing those problems. We have done our due diligence to inform and let [the property owner’s] know. We are often met with no empathy or response. So, we went out and got our own AC company to help provide a more bearable environment.”  

Dr. Jones says he spent thousands of dollars on the emergency installation. Even with several fans throughout the office, the temperature still climbed into the high 80s near patients and employees on Wednesday. Dr. Jones’ wife, Gloria, showed KENS 5 the temperature in their utility closet was 107 degrees.

“It [peaked] at 125 degrees,” she said. “Our equipment specialist said he was surprised the equipment hadn’t tripped because it was way too hot. We are trying to let air escape in the ceiling, and I open the door to let some of the heat out. One of [the machines] is for draining dental fluid, the other is for the Doctor’s dental drills. It helps run the equipment. So, if that goes out, we are unable to do any dentistry whatsoever.”

More concerns 

According to Dr. Jones, CentroMed bought the building off Babcock Road in the Medical Center two years ago. He says the new owners started renovating in November.

Inspire Dental shared several photos and videos depicting debris hanging from the hallway ceiling, dust coating their office, and loud construction noise.

“They did major renovations in our building without notice and without proper consideration,” said Dr. Jones. “Since we serve a patient population that has lots of anxiety or has lots of sensory needs, some of the construction interferences we went through impacted us providing care. Like taking away elevators and closing the stairwell, so how do you get to the second floor where the practice is located?”

On one occasion, Dr. Jones says a heavily sedated patient woke up in the middle of a procedure and believes construction noise was to blame.

“The construction team began to use jackhammers to break concrete,” he said. “It brought him out of his sedation. So, you can imagine we are in his mouth, he sees the IV, he hears the sound, he can’t process or comprehend what is happening. So, it then became a very dangerous situation for him. We were having to hold him down to try to protect him from falling out of the chair or ripping out the IV. Because he has a special need, his parents were brought back and were greeted with this surgical scene and loud noise. So, my office manager and the father went out and notified the crew, ‘You need to stop because this is what’s happening.’ As soon as they stopped, [the patient] calmed right down and went back to sleep.”

The mission 

For Dr. Jones, it’s personal. His older brother, Austin, suffers from Dravet syndrome, which causes him to have frequent seizures.

“From a very young age, I was often the first responder,” said Dr. Jones. “I would hook him up to oxygen to save his life. Seeing that suffering and the needs my brother had made me want to pursue a profession that cared for people like him. Often, these special needs individuals outgrow their pediatric care and there aren’t options afterwards for them. My brother had an incident where he had a seizure, fell, and broke his front teeth. It took three years to find a dentist who was willing to fix his front teeth.”

Patients with disabilities travel from across the state to receive care at Inspire Dental. Sara Jackson and her family drove from Corpus Christi for an appointment this week.

“They make it like home,” said Jackson.

However, Dr. Jones says CentroMed is making that more difficult.

“It is really hot,” Jackson said.

According to Dr. Jones, the City of San Antonio cited CentroMed for several code violations.

“There are times when it is discouraging; like I am here to care for people,” said Dr. Jones. “This is not an occupation, it’s a calling. We have continued to press on because if we are closing, if we are not here, then who is going to care for these people?”

Inspire Dental waits for action; KENS 5 waits for answers 

After decades of dentistry in the building, Dr. Jones feels they are now being forced out. He claims CentroMed made it clear they intend to turn the building into their HR headquarters.

We reached out to CentroMed several times for comment. As of this publication, KENS 5 is still waiting to hear back.

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