March 24, 2014


Changes coming to health care facilities
on Hatteras and Ocracoke

By IRENE NOLAN


Both the Hatteras Village Medical Center and the Ocracoke Health Center will see some changes in operations this spring.

The Hatteras center will see a change in the health care provider, and the Ocracoke center will have expanded hours, but will no longer have an after-hours, on-call provider.

The Hatteras village center just re-opened on Nov. 25 with physician’s assistant Margaret Jazayeri as the provider.

Dennis Robinson, a member of the center’s board and president of the Hatteras Village Civic Association, says that Jazayeri will be leaving this week.  He said that she gave the required 60 days notice.

“Hatteras Island was just not a good fit for her or her family,” Robinson said.

The medical center will be closed the first week in April and will re-open on April 7 with a new provider, nurse practitioner Gail Covington, who has worked at the Ocracoke Health Center since 2009.

Robinson said that Covington spent time at the Hatteras center in the early 1990s and has experience in health care in remote locations.

She has a bachelor of science in nursing from East Carolina University and a master’s degree in nursing and a post master’s certificate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Her experience also includes five years at the Minute Clinic in Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem where she provided primary care and set up and opened seven new clinics; seven years at a gynecologic, obstetrical, and primary care provider as the Wendover ob/gyn and infertility clinic in Greensboro; five years at First Health of the Carolinas Montgomery Women’s Health Service in Troy, N.C., where she set up the clinic and provided care at a remote rural location, and six years at Hampton and Lewis ob/gyn and infertility clinic in Oxford, N.C.

Covington will commute from Ocracoke, but Robinson said that she well knows that the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry can’t always run.  She will set up a place to stay at the medical center, where she will spend the night when necessary.

“Finances are really tight, and it will be a bumpy road for while,” Robinson said.

“We’re still in need of community support,” he said, “both financial and having folks visit the center.”

Part of the finance problem, he said, is that health insurers have been slow on reimbursements since the center opened.

The Hatteras Village Medical Center will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until noon and from 1 until 5 p.m.  It will be closed on holidays, including Thanksgiving and the day after. 

The phone number is 252-986-2756, which is the same one the medical center had in its former life.

The Ocracoke Health Center will expand its clinic hours, beginning June 2.  The clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 until 7 p.m. and from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The expanded hours will be offered in order to reduce the need of the after-hours, on-call provider service that the clinic has provided for many years.  The Ocracoke Health Center will be discontinuing this after-hours, on-call provider service beginning April 1. 

The Health Center will utilize an after-hours nurse call line.  When patients seek after-hours medical advice, they will be able to call 252-928-SICK and talk directly to a nurse for assistance.  The nurse will be able to guide the patient as to whether the patient needs further medical service, such as Emergency Medical Services, or if the problem can be treated during regular office hours.  The Health Center is also planning on a limited after-hours provider on-call service during weekend hours.  During that time, all true emergencies will continue to be referred to 911 and EMS services, and the on-call provider would be available for urgent medical care as needed.

According to a news release from the health center, “Since 2003, the health center has employed two, full-time, medical providers that alternately worked in the clinic and provided after-hours care.  In place of costly, per hour on-call service, the providers were paid full time salaries with full-time benefits. This system worked well for many years. 

“But over the last several years, the decrease in income generated by after-hours visits, the strain on occupancy tax funding and the lack of grant funding for after-hours, has left us with insufficient funding to cover the costs of after-hours care.”

The release notes that after-hours service was carefully scrutinized for cost effectiveness and utilization and that the need for the service has progressively declined. 

The Clinic Medical Director, Dr. Erin Baker, along with the Board of Directors and Cheryl Ballance, CEO, determined that expanded hours and a Saturday clinic would cover the majority of the visits we reviewed.  Over the last three years only 7 percent of total patient visits were made as after-hours visits. 

According to the release, the center “welcomes community input and concerns and will make arrangements to meet with all individuals who have concerns about their care.”

“We will also be working with the Hyde County EMS so that they are aware that we will not be handling emergency calls as in the past.  Our goal is to provide a patient-centered medical home to our community and to continue to provide quality medical care.”

 

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