October 10, 2013

Hatteras Village Medical Center
will reopen in mid-November


After having been closed down for almost three years, the Hatteras Village Medical Center will reopen in mid-November as a private, non-profit community-based corporation, run by a local board of directors.

Earlier this week, the board signed off on a health care provider for the new center.

She is Margaret Jazayeri, a 38-year-old physician’s assistant who was born and raised in eastern North Carolina and who now lives in Charlotte.

The medical center was established in the 1960s by villagers who banded together to bring medical care to the island.  It was opened as a rural health center and operated that way for a number of years before it was occupied by private physicians who established a practice there.  They eventually sold their practice to HealthEast, part of University Health Systems in Greenville, N.C.

The center was then operated as HealthEast Family Care.  HealthEast built a new and larger medical center in Avon in 2000 and for about a decade operated both the centers with three physicians.

On Dec. 30, 2010, HealthEast closed down the Hatteras Medical Center and relocated all of its operations to Avon. HealthEast was also bought out and the center now operates as Vidant Family Care.

The medical center is located on land owned by the National Park Service, which deeded it to Dare County in the 1960s with the proviso that it must be used as a health-care facility or the land reverts to the Park Service.

Hatteras villagers, not happy with the closure of the facility that they had shed blood, sweat, and tears to open, didn’t give up.

They formed a private, non-profit corporation, and the county agreed to let the group continue to use the building. The board includes chairman Ted Midgett, county commissioner Allen Burrus, Hatteras Village Civic Association president Dennis Robinson and two villagers – Geraldine Farrow and Hal Gray – who were involved in getting the rural health center open.

Dare also agreed earlier this year to continue to provide the upkeep on the building and some other expenses it paid under the previous providers. However, the county, at this point, is not committed to providing any funds for the operation.

The board quickly contracted with the Ocracoke Health Center for its administrative director, Cheryl Ballance, to manage the center.

In early 2011, Ballance and the board began a search for funding and a health-care provider.

It took some time, but eventually the pieces came together.

The most difficult part of the process so far has been finding the right health-care provider to move to Hatteras and gamble on getting the center up and running.  They were in no rush.  They wanted someone who would come to stay and have a commitment to the community. They were willing to talk with physicians, physician’s assistants, and nurse practitioners.

They found that person over the summer and hired her this month.

Jazayeri received an undergraduate degree in environmental health from East Carolina University in Greenville in 1997.

She says she always had a love for helping others and in health care, so she went back to East Carolina, and in 2004 got her bachelor’s degree in physician associate studies.  In 2006, she got her master’s in physician associate studies from the University of Nebraska Medical School.

She has experience in family medicine, internal medicine, rehabilitation medicine, and in the ear-nose-throat specialty.

Jazayeri’s husband, Ray, is from Michigan and owns and operates two businesses – one in medical education and the other information technology.  They have two children – Sammie, who is 16, and Camran, 1.

“Her personality seems to be a good match for our area,” says Cheryl Ballance. “She seems very community oriented.”

The family also loves the outdoors, time at the beach, and fishing.

Ballance and the board are busy right now getting everything ready to open the practice in November. It’s a daunting task.

After HealthEast left, the county cleaned up and repaired the building and gave it a facelift with new paint.

However, it still needs to be equipped.

Last night, the Hatteras Village Civic Association voted to give the medical center a grant of almost $17,000 toward that goal.

The center also has a grant of $6,000 from the Outer Banks Hospital community benefit grant program and $100,000 from AccessEast. And Ballance, who manages both the Ocracoke and Engelhard health centers, says she has her eye on some equipment at other rural centers in Eastern North Carolina.

A budget for the Hatteras Village Medical Center is still a work in progress, but Ballance hopes it can break even in about a year. It will be funded by grants and patient fees – and, to some degree, community donations.

The center will offer well care, preventive care, disease management, and sick care to patients of all ages and will be open five days at week.

In the beginning, at least, it will not offer after-hours care.

It will accept Medicare, Medicaid, and BlueCross/Blue Shield insurance.

The staff will include a registered nurse and a front-desk person.

Board member Dennis Robinson laid this all out to the civic association at a community meeting this evening.

He and the other board members, however, know there is a long row to hoe.  They know they will need to do serious fundraising and community outreach to reach the funding level and community support they will need for the long-term.

There is, however, a general excitement about having a medical facility back in the village.

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