South Florida seems to have an inexhaustible supply of unlicensed and extremely creative medical professionals.
So it’s pretty hard to be shocked when yet another practice is shut down.
And let’s face it, the bar has been set awfully high since the arrest two years ago of a Coconut Creek “doctor” who walked door-to-door offering free breast exams for women. Who knows how long Phillip Winikoff, 83, may have continued his practice if his hands hadn’t roamed during his exams.
But even so, I was surprised to find out that Ubaldo Bittencourt, a 62-year-old guy who lives a few blocks away from me in Boca Raton, had turned his utility room into a fully operational dental office capable of handling thousands of patients, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Bittencourt’s modest single-family home is 2,321 square feet; and if it’s anything like mine, the utility room is mostly just an afterthought.
My wife and I call it “the futility room.” Once you get the washer-drier combo and hot water heater in it, you’ve eaten up most of the floor space.
So when Bittencourt was arrested last week for running a booming cash-only dental practice out of his laundry room, I was less intrigued by the details that Bittencourt didn’t have a license to practice or that he didn’t put on gloves when he stuck his fingers into the undercover deputy’s mouth while offering to give her a bridge for $2,500.
I was mostly just impressed that a guy in the next neighborhood could get that much bang for his buck with his utility room.
“The laundry room contained several pieces of medical equipment including a dental x-ray machine, a dental film processor/developer and an assortment of medications, dental tools and dental molds,” the arrest report stated. “The dental tools located on the laundry room counter did not appear to be wrapped/sterilized.”
A counter too? Forget dentistry. This guy deserves a show on HGTV.
The arrest report said that Bittencourt was subjecting his patients to “potential disease, infection and radiation exposure” because of his makeshift office.
Yes, but that didn’t stop him from running this shady business for the past six years, or from telling the undercover deputy that he was making enough money from his home dental practice to build “a mansion” in Brazil.
He claimed to have 6,000 patients, the arrest report said.
At first, that might sound like quite a lot of people. And you might doubt whether there can be that many people in South Florida who would be willing to get their teeth drilled in some guy’s laundry room.
But then again, Bittencourt’s office sounded a lot more inviting than the one Jairo Herrera used to operate his lucrative dental practice several years ago in West Palm Beach.
Herrera did crowns, bridges and implants from his two-car garage. And at least he didn’t use Sears Craftsman drills, which another unlicensed dentist had been using in West Palm Beach before he was shut down.
The Florida Board of Dentistry reported last year that there had been 209 complaints about unlicensed dentists operating in Florida during the latest four-year period. And those complaints resulted in 131 referrals to law enforcement.
And those are just the dentists. When you expand to the greater medical field, you get to include the unlicensed cosmetic surgeon in South Florida who injected Fix-a-Flat tire repair compound into women trying to get bigger rear ends.
Like I said, we seem to have an inexhaustible supply of unlicensed and extremely creative medical professionals in our midst.