Complaints continued to mount this week against the Hilo doctor who is accused of putting Kristen Tavares, a 23-year-old mother of two, into a coma during a dental procedure.
Meanwhile, Tavares’ condition went unchanged, according to family members, with her remaining in a coma at Maui Memorial Medical Center and little hope of a full recovery if she awakens.
Tavares was under anesthesia and having her wisdom teeth removed on March 17 when she went into cardiac arrest and lost oxygen to her brain.
“We were together for three great years, we just had our son. She was always by my side. Now, I feel like a part of me is gone,” said Chauncey Prudencio, Tavares’ boyfriend and father of 3-month- old Gage. “Why did this happen? I want answers. I want justice.”
On Friday afternoon, a few dozen friends, family and other supporters joined Prudencio as he stood in front of Dr. John Stover’s business demanding answers. Holding up signs reading “Who’s Next?” and “Honk for Justice,” the protesters said they were on hand to lend their voices to Prudencio as he seeks justice for his girlfriend.
“I’m here to support him in every way possible,” said 22-year-old Myan Isa. “I feel it’s completely unprofessional the way he (Stover) has handled this. There’s been no comments from him, not even a ‘Sorry.’ It makes him look guilty.”
Calls to Stover’s office on Friday seeking comment went unanswered.
Prudencio said that over the last couple of weeks, he’s been amazed at the outpouring of support from the community. Social media postings have been spreading the word about an April 18 fundraiser for Tavares’ family, organized by the Sweet Water Foundation. And as Prudencio spoke to a reporter on the side of Kinoole Street, a couple in a white truck pulled to the side of the road and handed him a $20 bill.
“Everyone has gotten behind us,” he said, still clutching the gift in his hand. “It’s been traumatic on all of us.”
The young man says he’s also been infuriated by the stories he’s heard from others in the community who say that they, too, have had bad experiences with Stover.
“Why does he still have a license?” Prudencio asked. “If he’s so bad at what he’s doing, why is he still doing it?”
Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs spokesman Brent Suyama said Friday afternoon that employees with the DCCA’s Regulated Industries Complaints Office had recently opened an investigation into Stover’s practice in relation to Tavares’ case. He added that another complaint against Stover that had been closed due to lack of evidence had been reopened in the past week.
“I’m not allowed to talk about the specifics of cases too much,” he said, “but I can say that the bulk of our complaints, we rely on the public to tell us about those kinds of cases. … However, when higher profile cases like this pop up in the media that we hear about, staff can initiate a complaint on their own. Especially when they’re of such a serious nature.”
Stover’s practice is currently the subject of seven total open investigations into complaints filed with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Regulated Industries Complaints Office, according to a Friday afternoon records search on its website.
Licensed as both a dentist and a medical doctor, Stover has three complaints lodged since last year against him related to dental work, and four related to his work as a doctor dating back to 2012. His practice, Cosmetic Centers of Hawaii, has locations in Hilo, Waimea and Kona, and handles procedures such as laser treatments, cosmetic surgery, spa services and oral and facial surgery.
“Filing complaints is important, and we encourage everybody to do so if they have anything to report,” Suyama said. “That helps us to identify trends. If one particular licensee has several complaints, that sends up a red flag, or if we see a number pop up in a short amount of time.
“We’ve been getting flooded with complaints lately. And that’s a good thing. It helps us do our job,” he added.
“If people have had something happen, now is the time to come forward and speak up,” he said.
Complaints can be filed online at cca.hawaii.gov, or by calling the DCCA’s Consumer Resource Center on Oahu at (808) 587-4272. The DCCA’s Hilo office can be reached at (808) 933-8846.
Email Colin M. Stewart at email@example.com.