Medical care on Roanoke Island discussed at Manteo meeting

Published 4:40 pm Monday, June 20, 2022

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The medical services situation on Roanoke Island came to the forefront Wednesday evening at the Manteo Board of Commissioners meeting.

“It’s an emergency. It’s a crisis. It should not be tolerated,” said Malcolm Fearing during public comment.

Mayor Pro Tem Betty Selby echoed his concerns. “We are in a state of health emergency . . . It’s our duty to partner with someone.”

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Fearing received a letter from Outer Banks Family Medicine.

The letter states: “Effective June 23, 2022, Outer Banks Family Medicine – Manteo will no longer be available to provide your medical care.”

The letter was signed by Lynne Miles, Regional Administrator of Operations, Outer Banks Medical Group. Fearing said the letter was sent to 3,000 patients. The letter reports those receiving the letter were patients of three doctors: Johnny Farrow, Jennifer Harrison and Warren Blackburn.

The letter goes on to say that “the Outer Banks Medical Group does not currently have primary care providers accepting new patients, so we ask that you consider all alternative care options available to you.”

The list included with the letter is titled “Community Providers Primary Care Accepting New Patients Updated May 20, 2022. The list includes practices in these five locations: Camden, Elizabeth City, Moyock, Plymouth and Edenton. To go to some of these locations is at least a 2.5 hour round trip,” said Fearing.

“Each of you knows somebody that cannot do that,” commented Fearing.
He called the situation “the most critical issue this county has faced in a long time.”

“We can do better,” said Fearing, who charged that the decision to send the letter about the Manteo operation came from Chesapeake, home to Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, and Greenville, home to Vidant Health – now ECU Health, which are owners of the Outer Banks Hospital. “Greenville and Chesapeake need to be here now.”

He warned folks that to get a prescription refilled, patients must have a provider.

“This is not acceptable,” said Fearing. “Something is systematically flawed.”

Fearing’s family has been involved in helping the delivery of medical care for Roanoke Island for several generations. He started his comments with a little history. Dr. Fearing delivered medical services traveling by horse. Malcolm’s father and grandfather built a clinic in Manteo and provided the facility free to Dr. Harvey.

Dr. Walter Holton, former practitioner of the Manteo facility, told the commissioners “when I was recruited here, it was the community that brought us here.”

He said “it’s our problem here. What can the community do to help recruit people?”

Holton served Roanoke Island for 44 years.

Charles Massey warned “it’s more than an emergency.” He charged the lack of medical services will affect the economy.

During board member comments, Mayor Bobby Owens said he had served on the Vidant board for 10 years. To Vidant, he said “tell us what’s going on. Something is drastically wrong.”

On Friday, June 16, 2022, Amy Montgomery, senior administrator of operations at The Outer Banks Hospital, said in a telephone interview “we are not closing the Manteo practice. We’re looking to expand services in Manteo.” She reported that the hospital is looking for property. She said an expanded facility will “definitely have family medicine.”