Village Medical Center is
spruced up and closer to opening
By IRENE NOLAN
Hatteras Village Medical Center was quiet and cool on a hot day last
week, an eerie feeling for those of us who remember the hustle and
bustle in the center over so many years.
The center has been empty since HealthEast Family Care closed its
Hatteras location and pulled back to its Avon clinic only.
then, Hatteras village residents have formed a Board of Trustees to
re-open the center as a non-profit rural health center.
would be taking the center back to its roots. It was first
as a rural health center in the mid-1960s through the efforts of
Hatteras villagers who wanted to bring medical care to the island.
The board is working with Cheryl Ballance, administrative director of
rural health clinics in Ocracoke and Engelhard.
the Ocracoke and Engelhard centers, she said, have been operating with
funds and grants through the North Carolina Office of Rural Health and
Community Care, which works to help rural communities serve the
indigent and uninsured.
However, the state money “goes up and
down,” and makes planning for health care at the center difficult. And
the state’s budget in now under more pressure to make cuts than ever
“We are in a position,” she said, “of not being able to break even by
charges from patient services alone.”
2009, Ballance began looking for “other avenues” for grants. She
applied for and received a grant for $80,000 to explore how the centers
could become Federally Qualified Health Centers. In December, she
submitted a grant application for $650,000 in renewable federal funding
for operations at the two centers.
The “federally qualified”
designation, she said, is different from “federally designated” rural
health center status and would make the center eligible for some of the
$9 million in new federal money for community care.
The application, Ballance feels, is a strong one. The grants will be
awarded in August, and she is very optimistic.
The new funding would allow the Ocracoke and Engelhard clinics to
expand their medical services.
two centers would reorganize and merge their boards into one
corporation, which will be known as the Coastal Community Health
Alliance. Ballance would continue as administrative director of both.
Ballance is now also the administrator of the Hatteras Village Medical
explained that the Hatteras Village Medical Center would eventually
operate under the Coastal Community Health Alliance umbrella. It was
not incorporated in time to be part of the Federally Qualified Health
Center grant, but would operate as a “satellite” location.
Hatteras Center, she said, will eventually have a full-time medical
provider, a registered nurse, and a front office staff person. The
medical provider will ideally be a physician, she said, but could be a
Ballance has already obtained a one-time
grant of $100,000 from NC HealthNet to get the doors open in Hatteras.
She said last week that she expects to receive the funds very soon.
“start-up” money, she said, that is designed to hire the health
provider, and it will eventually be supplemented with patient care fees
and even other grants that Hatteras would be eligible for as part of
the Coastal Community Health Alliance.
and the board had hoped to re-open the Hatteras Center in May, but that
didn’t happen, mostly because of the challenges of finding a health
“It’s taking so long because we want to find someone
who will stay in Hatteras, be a part of the community, and provide
continuity,” Ballance said.
It will happen, she said firmly.
The Hatteras center could have opened earlier with part-time providers.
However, Ballance said, that she and the Board of Trustees want a more
members of the board are a little disappointed,” said Allen Burrus,
vice-chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners and one of the
five board members.
“However,” Burrus said, “we need to be
patient. The right person is what we need, not just any
person….We have to believe that special person is out there.
did it before,” Burrus said, referring to the hiring of Dr. Seaborn
Blair in 1990 and Dr. Dan Burroughs before that. “And we will do it
Ballance said that currently the state Office of Rural Health is
helping with recruiting a provider.
Hatteras Village Medical Center, she said said, is incorporated and has
applied for its non-profit status and is in the process of applying for
provider numbers for Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North
Since HealthEast cleared all of the office equipment
out of the building when it left, Ballance is searching for everything
from chairs and desks to examination tables. She is hoping that she can
get them donated to the Hatteras center.
Dare County owns the medical center and will continue to provide for
its upkeep, though the county will not fund operations.
Recently, employees of the county’s Buildings and Grounds Department
spent time getting the center in shape for its next life.
Their work was obvious during a tour of the building last week. The
center was bright, clean, and sparkling.
It has been scrubbed down, its cinder block walls are now painted
bright white, and new rugs cover some of the floors.
The HVAC system has been repaired, and work has been done on the roof.
employees, Burrus said, took a special interest in sprucing up the
medical center -- spraying down steps, replacing some outside doors,
repairing cracks in the walls and foundation, and doing some carpentry
The cost to the county was about $18,000, mostly for the work on the
HVAC system, said county finance director David Clawson.
Ballance nor Burrus wants to venture a guess on a
patients can again receive primary care at the Hatteras Village Medical
Center, but they assure islanders that it will happen.
For more information, read a March 22 article on Cheryl Ballance and
her work at all three medical centers.