A newly-created panel representing the Hatteras community was given the go-ahead from Dare County commissioners on Tuesday, Jan. 18, to find a health provider to fill the vacated medical center building in the village.
The five-member Hatteras Village Medical Center Board of Trustees will become a not-for-profit corporation and will not be controlled or funded by the county.
“The idea is, we won’t be taking any tax money to do this medical center,” Vice-Chairman Allen Burrus said in an interview. “We’re looking to do what we can to make that facility a medical facility.”
Geraldine Farrow, a trustee, said that a meeting will be held on Thursday with state Rural Health Center Services representatives to discuss operation at the site. The agency, which targets rural and underserved areas, already runs a clinic on Ocracoke Island, and operates medical centers in Engelhard, Elizabeth City, and Columbia.
Farrow, 73, said that Rural Health had operated the Hatteras clinic for many years after the facility first opened in the 1960s, and she is optimistic that a new contractual arrangement can be nailed down with the islanders.
“Even if they give us an answer tomorrow,” she said, “it’ll take a couple of months for a doctor to move in.”
Villagers had been meeting informally for months to find a medical services occupant to replace HealthEast Family Care, which moved out on December 30.
Under an agreement with the National Park Service, owner of the land the center sits on, the building must be used for health care or it will revert back to the federal government.
In the motion presented by Burrus, the board agreed to accept the Hatteras panel and authorized Dare County Manager and Attorney Bobby Outten to provide assistance for incorporation.
The medical center board includes two seats representing the Hatteras Volunteer Fire Protection Association, held by Ted Midgett and Hal Gray, and a seat each for the Hatteras Village Civic Association, held by Dennis Robinson, the Hatteras village tax trustees, held by Farrow, and the Dare County Board of Commissioners, held by Burrus.
Burrus said that the panel expects to meet in a week or two to discuss organizational details.
HealthEast, which still runs a clinic in Avon, completely emptied the contents from the Hatteras facility when it left, except for an old X-ray machine. But Outten said there was no legal reason for them to do otherwise.
“It was their stuff,” he said. “They took it all, so I guess they had a use for it.”
Farrow said she was involved with an earlier clinic committee in the 1980s before HealthEast located there. At the time HealthEast took over, she recalled, the clinic was fully stocked with medical supplies and equipment.
“Believe me, there is nothing in there now,” she said.
But Farrow said that the goal is to have the clinical services humming along as before, including 24-hour emergency care —whether or not Hatteras makes a deal with Rural Health.
“If we don’t, we’re going to keep hammering, “ she said. “We don’t give up easily.”
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