In the past several years, Dr. Keith F. Ostrosky has touched the breasts of female patients, performed shoddy work, improperly dispensed or taken medications and been fined $30,000 by the state.

Despite a litany of problems and allegations, the South St. Paul dentist has not lost his license.

Instead, he must follow rules, such as having another woman in the room when he sees female patients, and he must attend classes to improve his professional behavior. At least eight female patients reported that Ostrosky touched their breasts or placed items on them, according to the Minnesota Board of Dentistry.

That behavior led the board to say the dentist "engaged in personal conduct that brings discredit to the profession of dentistry when he made suggestive, lewd, lascivious or improper advances towards one or more female patients," according to the board's stipulation on Ostrosky's case.

The board also found that Ostrosky, who has been in practice for about 25 years, installed improper temporary fillings and put in permanent replacements after they began to fall out.

It's extremely rare for a dentist in Minnesota to lose a license.

There are 4,020 dentists in the state, and about 12,500 licensed hygienists and dental assistants. The state gets about 250 complaints a year, but only "a small number" end up as disciplinary cases, said Marshall Shragg, executive director of the Board of Dentistry.

The board's public database of disciplinary action lists 158 cases in which dentists have been subject to disciplinary action since 1991. Of those, only five resulted in the unconditional suspension of a dentist's license. There are 52 dentists who lost their licenses, but only one of those was listed as "revoked;" the rest voluntarily surrendered their licenses.

Shragg wouldn't say why Ostrosky kept his license, but he said that the board considers his case to be a serious matter.

"This particular order does outline very significant allegations and concerns," he said. "It is rare for a licensee to have such a wide range of concerns raised that require discipline."

Now practices in Hallock

Ostrosky was out of town and unavailable to comment on the matter, but he did say through his attorney that he agreed with the settlement.

"We think the taking of the various courses is a fair resolution," said John Degnan, Ostrosky's attorney.

Ostrosky, meanwhile, opened a new office last month in the northern Minnesota town of Hallock.  He is still free to practice anywhere in the state, and he's not obligated to tell his patients about the disciplinary action. He will maintain his South St. Paul office.

His new office is in Kittson Memorial Healthcare Center, where CEO Rick Failing, said he just learned about the sanctions on Wednesday. He said the state actions would not affect Ostrosky's move.

"I'm not discounting what's been said,'' Failing said. "But I've seen a number of these types of reports and you have to take them with a grain of salt. He has things he needs to comply with. He needs to meet those conditions."

The board report, which focuses on the past four years, also details disciplinary actions against Ostrosky in 1997 and 2000 for substandard record keeping. The report says he completed the requirements set out by the board.

But the past board discipline was intended to change behavior, and Shragg said that did not happen, raising questions about whether the initial sanctions were severe enough.

"That's a fair question," Shragg said, "and it is one we have to ask ourselves whenever we see any sort of recidivism."

Sen. David Hann, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said he isn't familiar with Ostrosky's case. In general, however, he said he doesn't have a sense that it's too difficult to remove a doctor's or dentist's license.

"It's possible to do it but it's a serious matter because it involves a person's livelihood,'' he said. "And there are constitutional and other issues involved in removing the means for a person to make a living."

"They are entitled to certain due processes," agreed Shragg, who noted that disciplinary actions are negotiations. "What the board needs to decide is how far it will proceed."

Heron Marquez • 952-746-3281