Dental office closure called ‘step in the right direction’


The boyfriend of a 24-year-old mother of two who lapsed into a coma during a dental procedure in Hilo said he’s “real happy” about a report the dentist planned to shut down his practice at the end of business on Friday.

Chauncey Prudencio, the father of Kristen Tavares’ younger child, called the closure of Dr. John Stover’s office a “step in the right direction.” The Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Friday quoted a Hilo dentist who referred patients to Stover for oral surgery as saying, “Today is his last day of work. We did confirm that.”

According to the Honolulu newspaper, the dentist spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Prudencio and other friends and relatives of Tavares picketed Stover’s Hilo office on March 28, saying she became unresponsive March 17 while having four wisdom teeth removed by Stover. Tavares was flown to Maui Memorial Medical Center, where she remains.

Asked Friday for an update on Tavares’ condition, Prudencio replied, “She’s basically still the same. We’re still hoping and we’re still praying.”

Stover’s Kinoole Street office was locked around noon Friday, but a woman dressed in medical scrubs came outside and accepted a business card from a reporter. The woman didn’t respond when asked if the office would be reopening, but said a meeting was in progress inside.

Voice mail messages left at Stover’s office and on his work cellphone were not returned Friday afternoon. Also unreturned by press time were voice mail and email messages to Arthur Roeca, Stover’s Honolulu attorney.

According to the Hawaii Dental Association, Stover is not a member. The group’s president, Dr. Lili Horton, said Friday in a written statement that it’s “a shame” that Stover “was allowed to practice dentistry in Hawaii.”

“Over our objections, the legislature created a loophole in 2005 that allowed several dentists to come to Hawaii and set up a practice, without going through a rigorous exam. Stover was one of those dentists,” Horton wrote. “Dr. Lilly L. Geyer (nee Tsou) whose patient, 3-year-old Finley Puleo Boyle, died after suffering massive brain damage while in Geyer’s care was another. Neither of these dentists were members of the Hawaii Dental Association, which represents 92 percent of all Hawaii dentists.

“Our association encourages elected officials and regulatory agencies to protect the public’s health by ensuring only highly qualified dentists are allowed to practice in Hawaii.”

Geyer’s Kailua, Oahu, office has since closed.

Stover does business under the name Cosmetic Centers of Hawaii. His website claims fellowships and membership in numerous other professional associations including: Fellow, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons; Fellow, American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery; Fellow, American College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons; Fellow, American Dental Society of Anesthesiology; Hawaii Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons; American Medical Association; Hawaii State Medical Society; and Hawaii County Medical Society.

The Regulated Industries Complaints Office of the state’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs lists a dozen pending complaints against Stover — who is also a medical doctor and Ph.D., performs cosmetic surgery and has additional offices in Waimea and Kealakekua. Seven of those complaints were filed this year, most of them since Tavares’ plight became public. Three were initiated last year and two were lodged in 2012.

Another complaint, filed in 2010, was closed in 2011 because of insufficient evidence.

Details of pending complaints are not available, although a DCCA spokesman told Stephens Media Hawaii last month an investigation had been opened into Tavares’ case.

“All of the allegations with people coming forward, it’s not just one here and two there. It’s a lot,” said Prudencio. “A lot of people are saying he’s too rough, he doesn’t have compassion for his patients. I wonder, actually, how the state let it go this far with all these people coming forward with stories, and nobody doing anything about it.

“I strongly believe that if everything was handled a long time ago that a lot of people wouldn’t have to have gone through this, a lot of victims with a lot of suffering. I know for a fact that Kristen wouldn’t be in the situation she’s in right now.”

Stover came to Hawaii in 2001 and practiced medicine here before receiving his dental license in 2005. Before then, he practiced medicine and dentistry in Louisiana. Stover’s licenses there remain active and he has no disciplinary history, according to the Louisiana medical and dental boards.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.